Your accommodation and temporary ‘Home Away From Home’ is the most important component of any vacation. It can make or destroy your vacation including the overall perception of the destination. Classifying hotels is important as it helps link different types of travellers with the right accommodation whose service suits their needs and expectations.
Zimbabwe, like other busy regional tourist hubs has a diverse range of accommodations which cater to different types of travellers. These range from hotels, resorts, Bed & Breakfasts, private rentals, houseboats, camps and more. Whether one is in the country as a business or leisure traveller, Zimbabwe accommodations are designed to make one’s stay a worthy and memorable Home Away From Home experience.
While this article is on accommodation, the emphasis is on classification. Differentiating properties through classification is important. It makes it easy to align different types of accommodations with certain segments of travellers with different needs and expectations.
Why Classification Matters
For a country like Zimbabwe with a high patronage of western tourists, classification becomes a necessary indicator that provides important pieces of information about a property – its type, quality, standard of service offered and price to be paid. Having knowledge about your prospective Home Away From Home gives you confidence during booking and your stay.
Classification also provides a point of reference to industry intermediaries such as Travel Agents or Tour Operators to use when putting together packages, or when negotiating deals for clients. In Zimbabwe, classification is an indicator of type and quality of the property while for those popular non-hotel lodgings such as B&Bs, camps or private rentals, it has become a tool that creates competition among properties within the same category. Because of competition, there is an improvement in standards and quality of service all in a bid to attract a mix of travellers, a positive development for the local industry.
Link between Classification and Different Travellers
If the industry is to succeed, it needs to understand the expectations, needs and wants of different clients. Understanding differences between different travellers is equally important as acknowledging individual preferences when it comes to standard and quality of service of a property. Classifying accommodation therefore makes it easier to target a mix of travellers with great effectiveness, then successfully linking them with properties which cater to their needs.
Understanding Business and Leisure Travellers
Business travellers are specific in their demands and expectations when it comes to accommodation. Location is key, a top priority that is non-negotiable. Their choice of hotels is limited, and time is of importance as they require convenient locations within close proximity to business venues and amenities. An efficient, high speed internet connection and Wi-Fi is a must as there is constant need to stay connected by email, mobile, or video-conferencing. Hotels without high-speed connection are not ideal for this target market.
Unlike leisure travellers, business clients are loyal guests who stick to the same hotel that meets their expectations. All-inclusive amenities are essential because they make life easy and seamless as they unwind after a busy day. Morning coffee, continental breakfast, newspaper, stocked mini bar, a fully-equipped bathroom and pool are prerequisites. Loyalty programs that offer free upgrades are a great way to gain loyalty. Business travellers tend to be frequent flyers, business executives, dignitaries, high raking politicians, celebrities and wealthy clients.
Leisure travellers have expectations although they tend to be budget conscious, price sensitive and spend time seeking better deals. They rely on online reviews and recommendations from colleagues, friends or family when considering accommodation. It is therefore important that proprietors make time to address negative reviews regarding their properties, failure of which that property is as good as delisted. Offering a points-based referral program which gives discounts or upgrades to guests who refer others to your property, can grow your business.
Leisure travellers also respond positively to properties that offer incentives like special packages. This gives owners an opportunity to be creative and come up with exciting packages to grow their business. This group is also drawn by “extra on-site facilities” such as restaurants, a gym or kids’ programs.
If your property caters to this segment, highlighting any available “extras” can benefit your business and also attract more guests.
Different Types of Accommodations
Zimbabwe has different types of accommodations classified as hotels, resorts, B&Bs, guesthouses, rentals, houseboats, lodges and more as a clear guidance on what to expect.
Hotels alone are very broad and have their own classification based on size, location, rating, target market, level of service, number of rooms, facilities, ownership and affiliation, etc. These will be covered later in detail as this article touches briefly on business hotels only.
Business hotels is the largest group which caters primarily to a more sophisticated high-profile business clientele. These hotels are often located in big cities, in central business districts (CBDs), and closer to conference centres, restaurants and transportation. Location is key as business travellers expect a convenient location that is within close proximity to business venues where they hold their meetings. Business hotels should emphasize the location in their promotion campaigns in order to attract more business travellers. Airport and Boutique hotels tend to attract the same segment of travellers, hence they also fall within this category.
While these hotels primarily cater to business travellers, many individual tourists, small conference and tour groups also find them attractive. Guest amenities may include a complimentary newspaper, breakfast, morning coffee, wake-up call, turn-down service, free local calls, iron and ironing board. Other essentials like a functional air-con, stocked mini-bar, a fully-equipped bathroom and swimming pool help these high profile travellers relax and unwind after a busy day. Hotels like the 5-Star Meikles in Harare and Bulawayo Rainbow strategically located in CBDs have facilities & amenities that continue to attract this high value target market.
Target Market: business executives, dignitaries, wealthy clientelle, high-ranking political figures, frequent flyers/or travellers including celebrities are all primary markets.
Levels of Service: Luxury 5-Star hotels which provide top-notch, world-class service, have upscale restaurants and lounges, private dining facilities, 24 hr room service as well as concierge and valet services. Free shuttle service to and from the hotel or airport is offered.
Resorts are full-service accommodations that offer a range of recreational facilities and amenities to emphasize a leisure experience in natural surroundings. These are usually located in remote areas far away from the hustle and bustle of big cities. In Zimbabwe, resort hotels are located within proximity of major natural attractions and in idyllic wilderness settings such as in the mountainous Eastern Highlands, Victoria Falls and other similar locations. Resorts have great scenery and those within private game reserves have wild-life presence on the property. These lodgings have indoor and outdoor recreational facilities including golf, tennis, swimming, casino, convention and conference centers to name a few.
Resorts are more than your regular Home Away From Home that provides a place to sleep and stay. These properties are deliberately located within proximity of natural surroundings so as to provide unique and memorable guest experiences that encourage repeat visits. Both Leopard Rock Resort in Eastern Highlands and Elephant Hills in Victoria Falls dominate this category, not because of their unique locations but due to their continued appeal to a mix of travellers.
Target Market: Business travellers and a mix of leisure travellers such as couples, groups attending business or other conferences, wedding parties, honeymooners and families.
Levels of Service: Resorts offer luxury 4-5-Star service, have great restaurants, lounges and bars. Some have in-house casinos, health and wellness centres, 24-hour Room Service including concierge and valet service.
Bed & Breakfast, Guesthouses (Homestays)
Bed & Breakfast also known as Homestays is someone else’s home. B&Bs are run by the homeowners who often reside within the premises and are responsible for overseeing the establishment. Private homes convert rooms into overnight facilities which they rent out for short-stays. Guests are served a full home-made breakfast and others courteous enough offer light dinner too. B&Bs have 1-10 guest rooms and can host not more than 6 guests at a time.
Guesthouses on the other hand, are much larger and can host more than 6 guests at a time. They tend to have separate guest accommodations from the owner, are run on a commercial basis and have staff at hand. Although larger, guesthouses are not that different from B&Bs as both are home-stays that originated from the same concept of renting out family homes or rooms for supplementary income.
Target Market: Leisure travellers such as adventure-seekers, couples, drops-ins, culture buffs, seniors and other like-minded budget-conscious travellers seeking luxury, good food and intimacy at affordable rates.
Levels of Service: Both B&Bs and Guesthouses offer limited service and amenities. What is considered “extras” in hotels like movies, internet, snacks and beverages are included. Parking is free including personal service by the owner. Others offer lessons on local crafts or cooking and guided tours to local events.
Lodges are almost similar to B&Bs and guesthouses in that some are run within private properties with owners as proprietors. Some stay within the premises but in separate lodgings. They offer short stays and have full staff. Lodges offer limited service almost similar to hotels but on a smaller scale such as room service, cleaning and laundry. Security and free parking are included. A restaurant and bar are available on premises. Depending on size, lodges can have 3 to 15 guest rooms and can host more than 10 guests at a time.
In Zimbabwe, lodges are everywhere – in big cities, suburban areas, small towns, remote wildernesses, in private Game Reserves and National Parks. Chiredzi’s Singita-Pamushana and Hornung Park Lodge in Bulawayo are examples. Sandalwood Lodge in Harare transcends being a lodge. It is also a luxurious boutique lodging which has stayed ahead of the game by catering to a special niche market which is a mix of business and leisure travellers it appeals to.
Target Market: Lodges attract leisure travellers such as couples, adventure-seekers, safari enthusiasts, culture buffs plus nature lovers. However, Sandalwood Lodge proves that an effective marketing campaign can breach boundaries to attract travellers from both segments.
Levels of Service: Limited to full service depending on size and location. Internet or wi-fi, movies, games, parking and security are included. Snacks and beverages including transportation to and from remote lodges are all included.
Rentals ( Private Homes/Apartments)
Rentals are privately-owned homes or apartments rented by travellers as an alternative to hotels. These fully-furnished properties are rented out to guests for a specified period of time like short or long stays. Like hotels, rates are charged per night for short stays whereas the prevalent practice for rentals is weekly rates. The average home or apartment can sleep 6-10 people. For those who do not want to spend exorbitant fees on extra amenities in hotels, rentals are a great alternative to save big as they offer benefits of added amenities like space and privacy at no extra cost.
Zimbabwe rentals are located everywhere – in suburban and low-density areas, countryside or CBDs close to transportation, shopping and attractions. Travellers are increasingly opting for rentals because they are cheaper, affordable, offer privacy and extra amenities with no hidden costs. Lolo’s Apartments in central Harare is one of many rentals satisfying the needs of this growing niche market by providing alternative lodgings that are affordable and all-inclusive.
Rentals come fully furnished with a full kitchen, laundry and cleaning service. TV & DVD, internet or Wi-Fi, movies and games are included. Rentals are arranged either directly with the owner on the internet via their website, through a rental agency or listing by a marketing company. An active Reviews Page where guests can leave comments regarding their experiences at your property is recommended as is the best way to attract new customers and grow your business.
Target Market: budget minders and price conscious travellers, students, couples and other leisure travellers who want to explore local culture and history.
Levels of Service: Ranges from self-serve to full-service depending on the size and standard of the rental. Bigger, luxurious, affluent homes have a full staff, chef and security; whereas smaller properties are self-serve and have a maid who comes on an agreed schedule to clean and do the laundry. Both provide free parking and 24 hour security.
Houseboat also known as Floatel or a “Floating Hotel” is a type of accommodation that floats on water. These tend to be luxurious to mid-range suites consisting of spacious deck, kitchen/kitchenette, living/sitting area, dining area, en-suite bedroom, bathroom, shower, splash pool and Jacuzzi. Lake Kariba is the Zimbabwean capital of Houseboats where these luxury floating lodgings are becoming popular for short stays, cruises, guided-tours and sight-seeing.
Houseboats can be rented like other lodgings except that they have an advantage of not being stuck in one place. They float and travel on Lake Kariba and along the mighty Zambezi River. Houseboats have similar facilities as those found in most hotels and they can accommodate up to 50 or more people depending on the size of the vessel.
Facilities & Amenities: Houseboats come with a crew comprising of a Captain, chef and deckhand. Included are Tender Boats, air-condition, safe, 2-12 toilets & showers, braai area, splash pool or jacuzzi, bar, Flat-screen TV & DVD, music system, hot water, fridge and freezer.
Target Market: Leisure travellers such as adventure and safari enthusiasts, couples, families, culture buffs, seniors and anyone who is into local culture and history.
Levels of Service: Levels of service vary depending on size, quality and standard of the vessel. Houseboats offer cooking, catering and cleaning services. Not all vessels are child-friendly. Please verify and confirm your agent before making a booking.
Hostels (Residential Hotels)
Hostels are a form of mass accommodation that offer rooms on a monthly basis despite staying shorter than the charged period. These are usually owned and operated by academic institutions or in other cases, private entities. Hostels are booked months in advance by groups, companies, institutions including religious and other organizations for business, leisure or training excursions. Mass lodgings are found everywhere – in big cities, small towns, suburbs or country side. Hostels are common in schools, colleges and universities and they charge on a monthly or annual basis.
Amenities & facilities: Hostels provide boarding and food, indoor and outdoor recreational facilities, health and fitness centres. Some have internet access and are moderately furnished.
Target Market: Groups, students, backpackers, organizations and budget-conscious travellers.
Camps are at the heart of Zimbabwe’s tourism industry and are a form of accommodation that is often located in secluded wilderness, private Game Reserves and National Parks. These properties vary and have their own classification, something which will not be discussed in depth at the moment. However, most do offer luxury and comfortable lodgings as well as full to limited services depending on size and nature of the camp. Also offered is dining, braai, bar, shower or en-suite bathroom, pool, fire-pit including transport to and from the camps. These camps cater to a mix of travellers who are safari enthusiasts, avid hunters, nature lovers, photographers, backpackers as well as all sorts of wilderness adventure seekers.
Whatever one thinks of Zimbabwe, its accommodation sector is constantly adapting to new trends through re-alignment and classification as the industry caters to a growing mix of visitors. By customizing services to match different needs, wants and expectations of various travellers, Zimbabwe is proving once again that as preferences and choices change, it is ready to take on any challenge and move on with the times.
Ready to explore? Unleash the wanderlust in you! Explore, experience, discover Zimbabwe!