New brand weaves the magic
New brand weaves the magic
A 77-room five star hotel and an international-class conference centre are at the heart of a new Livingstone, Zambia-based group of companies that has the enticing name of The Explorer Club.
Many key tourism products fall under this brand and we spoke with group managing director, Steve McCormick, whose first foray into tourism was 26 years ago when he founded the now-dominant adventure activities company, Safari Par Excellence, in Livingstone.
ZT: What has prompted the launch of your new group, The Explorer Club, and what are its main elements?
SM: The past ten years have seen substantial growth of our core and start-up adventure activities in Livingstone under the SafPar banner, but today we also own or part-own several other diverse and exciting entities that don’t fit under this portfolio. For example we have a luxury five star hotel, The David Livingstone Safari Lodge & Spa, and a unique 280-seat conference centre that will open in August 2014. We also own a small 32-bed fourstar boutique hotel called The Bay on the west coast of Mauritius in Black River.
We have other edge-of-the-Zambezi accommodation to cater for all markets, a restaurant and pizza bar, unique and remote venues for groups, a creative and experienced specialist in-house destination management company Twiice and an online luxury package tour operation that also encapsulates Kenya, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mauritius.
All these, and any future products, will now fall under the umbrella brand of The Explorer Club.
ZT: How will this initiative benefit the travel trade and attract more regional and international tourists to Livingstone?
SM: Ownership, unrivalled local knowledge over 26 years and proven expertise are the key words. In the various segments we have about 300 staff members on the ground and our primary objective is to support the trade with this potent combination. We’re a formidable one-stop solution for any individual tours to Victoria Falls, Lake Kariba and Botswana and also for all types of groups, from pure conferences to creating and delivering the magic of the destination for incentive travel. As the owners, we can make fast and flexible decisions.
ZT: Your current investment in a high-quality conference centre portrays a big vote of confidence in both Zambia as a destination and in the niche meetings sector.
SM: We believe that the timing is perfect – there are positive signs that several key economies are powering up once again, such as the USA and the UK, and we are confident that with sustained and strong marketing in the international arena the allure of being able to hold a conference, and stay in comfort, on the banks of the Zambezi River will be terrific. Imagine being able to meet in the acclaimed Adventure Capital of Africa, at a Wonder of the World...it’s the ultimate in ensuring your event is in harmony with nature.
ZT: You have also branched out with Twiice DMC into the specialised market of international incentive groups.
SM: In the mid 1990s Victoria Falls was one of the most powerful incentive and meetings destinations on earth. That amazing fact was down to one man, Glen Byrom, who had the vision to pioneer the first specialist DMC in southern Africa and to focus exclusively on Victoria Falls. Glen has now brought his 26 years of experience to spearhead our own in-house DMC and to provide vital peace of mind to demanding international incentive groups that we fully understand this business – we create the out-of-the-ordinary magic and then deliver with a passion for excellence in the detail.
ZT: An intriguing name, ‘Twiice’.
SM: It stands for Team Building, Weddings, Incentives, Conferences and Events with the two i’s depicting that we specialise in incentive travel. It allows us to promote our crisp and strong credo THINK Twiice!
ZT: Do you anticipate that your five star hotel will reap rewards from the on-property conference centre?
SM: Most certainly. We expect that uplift to be dramatic. Since The David Livingstone Safari Lodge & Spa opened we have been aware that we have lost much business because we can only accommodate a small meeting of up to 40 people. With news of our new 280-seat multi-purpose centre now spreading, the pace of enquiries is already picking up fast, especially in the near term from local Zambian corporates, government, South Africa and the region.
We have 77 luxury rooms at our lodge so it is evident that the nearby hotels – such as Chrismar, Protea and The Courtyard –will enjoy excellent spin-off as delegates may choose from five star to three star accommodation all within a fiveminute drive.
ZT: How does your original company, Safari Par Excellence, fit into this whole picture?
SM: It’s the major differentiator and benefit to our clients. It is somewhat unique for a medium-to-large to also own a wide array of activities and venues. This is a significant advantage when we bid for groups who stay with us, as we control the product and can weave it together with all the magic at our disposal. For example we can take a conference group out on our luxury 150-seater Lady Livingstone and arrive at a remote bush location on the banks of the Zambezi where we have created the big surprise of a conference set up for the opening session. Then we can get our own elephants to walk in for an interactive experience as another big surprise.