As Zambia’s primary business travel destination, Lusaka is relatively ‘user-friendly’, with a small, simple airport, nice selection of branded hotels, and a layout that makes it a city easy to navigate.
The capital of a southern Africa country that by and large flies under the radar, Lusaka has much to offer those corporate travellers looking for a seamless experience, from a small and simple airport to a nice spread of branded hotels, good restaurants, and a straightforward layout.
As the capital of Zambia, Lusaka attracts the majority of business travel to the country. It's also the country's most populated region, with nearly two million residents, as well as the chief administrative, financial, and commercial centre. Located in the south-central part of the country, near the border with Zimbabwe, it is a sprawling city with modern infrastructure and friendly residents.
Lusaka was established as a settlement in 1913 and has developed into the central point from which a lot of other business travel takes place, being a transit point for corporate travel to and from Zambia's Copperbelt.
“Zambia, and Lusaka in particular, is an outstanding destination for business travel in the region. It offers a tremendous environment for mega conferences, events and incentive travel,” says Lauren Watson, Marketing Manager at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Lusaka. “The country's strategic location – being surrounded by eight countries and with easy access to them - provides a good platform for business networking.”
There is growth in the retail, and to a lesser extent, banking sectors, and Lusaka is the hub within the country for these industries.
City attractions include the Lusaka National Museum, the Political Museum, the Zintu Community Museum, the Freedom Statue, the Zambian National Assembly, the Agricultural Society Showgrounds (known for their annual agricultural show), the Moore Pottery Factory, the Lusaka Playhouse, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, and the zoo and botanical gardens of the Munda Wanga Environmental Park.
Lusaka is also home to the University of Zambia and two large shopping malls, in the form of Arcades and Manda Hill shopping mall. The city centre includes several blocks west of Cairo Road, around which lie the New City Market and Kamwala Market, a major shopping area, as well as the Zintu Community Museum. Further east lies the government area, including the State House and the various ministries, around the Cathedral Hill and Ridgeway neighbourhoods.
One of the main streets and points of interest for business is Cairo Road. Buildings along Cairo Road include the Central Bank Building, Zambia National Building Society, Zambia National Commercial Bank, Barclays Bank Zambia's head office, Stanbic Bank Zambia, and Investrust Bank.
The Zambian economy revolves around copper and continues to grow, thanks to higher commodity prices, but the government is in the process of economic diversification to reduce the economy's reliance on this industry. This initiative seeks to exploit other components of Zambia's rich resource base, by promoting agriculture, tourism, gemstone mining and hydropower.
But the country's growth prospects wouldn't have been helped by the news in September that the UK had frozen aid funding to Zambia, after the government admitted that $4.3m meant for poor families had gone missing.
The move followed allegations of corruption within President Edgar Lungu's administration.
Ireland, Finland and Sweden also suspended aid, which is believed to affect the education, health and nutrition sectors, as well as social cash transfers for the poorest Zambians.
The aid suspension came as Zambia's debt levels faced increasing scrutiny, with the International Monetary Fund saying it had suspended lending to the country as it was worried that its debt was unsustainable.
AIRPORT & AIRLINES
Kenneth Kaunda International Airport is the largest airport in Zambia. It is located 27 kilometres from Lusaka, and despite being built in the late 1960s is fairly well maintained, offering travellers
“Zambia, and Lusaka in particular, is an outstanding destination for business travel in the region. ”
access to car rental firms, transfer services, foreign exchange bureau, duty-free stores, a post office and a restaurant.
The airport is in the process of being upgraded, the completion of which will make a huge difference to the airport experience. When the plans were first unveiled in 2013, it was said that the new airport would contain a new two-storey terminal building, including 22 check-in counters, 12 border channels, six security check counters, a shopping complex, an airport hotel with 80 rooms, and a new car park.
“Until then, however, the old airport is in use with both domestic and international flights from the same building,” says Watson.
Construction on the new terminal building eventually began in June 2015 and is scheduled for completion in 2019. The project has been granted a budget of $360 million.
As for the existing lounge offering, September 2014 saw the announcement that Kenya Airways would open a brand new lounge, bringing to four the number of lounges at the international airport. The other lounges are the SAA, IAPCO Club and FNB lounges. First National Bank Zambia launched its first FNB Lounge at KKIA in 2013. FNB Premier Banking clients can use their Platinum card to gain exclusive access, and the lounge is wi-fi enabled, has catered food and comfortable wash and change rooms.
From an airline point of view, Emirates is arguably the biggest international airline flying into Lusaka, along with Africa's ‘Big 3' – South African Airways, Kenya Airways, and Ethiopian Airlines – and fastjet, which provides a low-cost option between Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Lusaka.
Other African airlines flying into Kenneth Kaunda International include Air Botswana, Air Namibia, Air Zimbabwe, Airlink, Malawian Airlines, and TAAG, whilst 2015 saw RwandAir announce the launch of three weekly flights from Kigali. Airlink operates direct flights between Johannesburg and Lusaka on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Air Zimbabwe resumed scheduled flights between Harare and Lusaka in 2015.
Local Zambian carriers haven't fared too well for a variety of reasons, but Proflight Zambia has been in business for 20 years and managed to prosper. It has also been quite active in the last couple of years, celebrating its first international scheduled air service from Lusaka to Lilongwe (Malawi) in 2013, followed by the launch of a service between Lusaka and Durban in South Africa. The
airline recently added four weekly flights from Lusaka to Harare (Zimbabwe), reducing travel time from seven hours by road to 70 minutes by air. Proflight also flies to Livingstone, Kafue National Park, Solwezi, Ndola, Kalabo, Kitwe, Kasama, Jeki, Royal, and Mfuwe in Zambia.
There is a good selection of wellknown international brands in Lusaka, ensuring a steady supply of quality accommodation.
The ‘newest kid on the block' is the Hilton Garden Inn Lusaka Society Business Park, which only opened in August. The hotel is located in the heart of the city with up to four shopping malls within a five-kilometre radius, and is just a 30-minute drive from Kenneth Kaunda International Airport.
Hilton Garden Inn Lusaka Society Business Park has 148 rooms with city views, including four junior suites with kitchenettes located on the 18th floor. The hotel also has an all-day dining restaurant – Garden Grille – and a bar and lounge, an outdoor pool and 24-hour fitness centre.
Eventing facilities includes 150m2 of banqueting space and pre-function areas. Business travellers can also take advantage of the hotel's meeting spaces, with state-of-the-art 12-seater boardrooms with built-in flatscreen TVs.
The brand is Hilton's midmarket or ‘select services' brand, and it's interesting that the group has decided that it is a fit for Lusaka, clearly seeing an opportunity to fill a gap in the city's hotel offering.
The hotel is part of the newlyrefurbished development Society Business Park on Cairo Road. The 20-floor mixed-use park is part of a public-private partnership agreement between Zambia National Building Society and the National Pension Scheme Authority. The agreement between the two is a 20-year procurement partnership for the $100m redevelopment of the park, which its management was subsequently awarded to Hilton. HGI Lusaka Society Business Park
Another international brand with a presence in Lusaka is Radisson Hotels, with its Radisson Blu Hotel, Lusaka, which opened in 2012 and offers upmarket accommodation five kilometres from the city centre.
The hotel's location also offers convenient access to the business and commercial districts and prides itself on its modern amenities and 142 rooms and suites. Those rooms are made up of 10 one-bedroom suites, 16 business class rooms, 17 superior rooms and 109 standard rooms. Guests enjoy free high-speed, wireless internet access, individual climate control, an inviting outdoor pool and a spa.
In terms of food and beverage, the hotel's Chuma Grill Restaurant & Bar hosts the complimentary breakfast buffet and serves African fusion and international dishes for lunch and dinner.
For a midday snack or cocktail while you lounge by the outdoor swimming pool, guests can order something from the Pool Bar.
The hotel also has a fitness centre, whilst the conference offering includes five fully-equipped conference rooms, a versatile pre-fun-ction area, and two spacious ballrooms. There's also a professional conference co-ordinator on hand to assist, and there are 300 on-site parking spaces.
Construction on a second Radisson Hotels property in Lusaka is already underway. The Park Inn by Radisson Lusaka Longacres is expected to open in 2020 and will form part of a mixed-use development, which will include a 9,000m2 shopping mall. Its location will put embassies, diplomatic missions and the United Nations offices within easy reach.
The 136-room hotel will offer a mixture of standard rooms and suites, along with an allday dining restaurant and bar. The meetings and events area will include one ballroom, three meeting rooms and a boardroom. The hotel will also house a wellequipped gym.
Of the groups with a presence in Lusaka, Marriott has the greatest, courtesy of its Protea Hotels by Marriott brand. The first Protea property opened in 2000, when it rebranded the 20-room former Chisamba Safari Lodge, now known as Protea Hotel by Marriott Lusaka Safari Lodge. Over the last 17 years the group has grown that presence with a further seven hotels in Zambia, three of which are situated in Lusaka.
The Protea Hotel by Marriott Lusaka Cairo Road, with 75 rooms, opened in June 2006; the 100-room Protea Hotel by Marriott Lusaka opened in August 2008; and the Protea Hotel by Marriott Lusaka Tower, with 137 rooms,
opened in April 2014.
Protea Hotel by Marriott Safari Lodge, situated in its own private game reserve, has twice expanded, adding 20 additional rooms each in 2005 and 2010, to offer a total of 60 rooms. Despite its seemingly leisure-focused location, it does offer conferencing facilities for up to 80 delegates, as well as free wireless internet access.
Protea Hotel by Marriott Lusaka Cairo Road is in the heart of Lusaka's CBD. The hotel has two conference rooms, both suitable for between 15 and 40 delegates, and can be combined for larger groups. There are also boardrooms on the second and fourth floors available for smaller business meetings. Free wireless internet access is available throughout the hotel.
Protea Hotel by Marriott Lusaka is across the road from the Mulungushi International Conference Centre. It is situated in the Arcades Shopping & Entertainment Complex, putting a range of shops, bars and restaurants with easy reach of guests.
The Protea Hotel by Marriott Lusaka Tower is also in the Arcades Shopping complex. The hotel's ninth-floor restaurant and bar offer expansive views over the city. There are two meeting rooms and four boardrooms that complement the conferencing facilities at the neighbouring Protea Hotel by Marriott Lusaka.
There are other big international brands in the form of Best Western, InterContinental, and Taj.
Looking at the African brands, Cresta Hotels has the Cresta Golfview, which has 78 rooms, four conference facilities that can accommodate up to 300 delegates, airport transfers and complimentary wi-fi. Another safe bet is going with Tsogo Sun Hotels, which operates the more budget-friendly StayEasy Lusaka and the four-star Southern Sun Ridgeway, which was formerly the Holiday Inn.
Most hotels and lodges offer some form of conference and event facilities, but the Mulungushi International Convention Centre was purpose-built to host large conventions. The ‘old wing' was built to host the Non-Aligned
“Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in Lusaka at the shops in the malls or the hotels. ”
Summit in 1970. It offers seven conference halls with the largest hall capacity of up to 2,500 people. The ‘new wing', adjacent to the original building on Great East Road, was designed to “reflect the international flair of a conference venue”. It added 13 conference halls, the largest of which can accommodate up to 1,000 people.
Although non-cash payments are growing in popularity, travellers should not depend on credit to get around the country.
“Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in Lusaka at the shops in the malls or the hotels,” says Watson. “However, for more local transactions, cash is the only method of payment.”
Visa is the card of choice in this part of Africa, MasterCard is far less popular, and use of all other cards is virtually unheard of outside of the international hotel chains.
Mini-buses are ubiquitous, cheap, and fast, and for a few kwacha you can get into or out of town easily.
For the uninitiated, though, a taxi might be a better option, at least initially. Taxis come in two colours – sky blue and a light grey, and are usually Toyota Corollas. There are no meters in Zambia's taxis, so prices are somewhat negotiable, but always on the high side for Africa. Be sure to set a price before getting in the cab. A good tip is to ask the hotel concierge how much your trip should cost.
Take down a taxi driver's mobile number and most will be happy to do an all-day deal, waiting for you while you conduct business, or pick you up early or late and take you to and from the airport.
Like in most fast-growing African cities, traffic is atrocious – avoid going in and out of the city centre by any route during rush hour, if you can. Increasingly, slow traffic does at least help reduce the awful death rate on Lusaka's roads.
“Zambians are incredibly pleasant, helpful and welcoming people,” says Watson. “As a business traveller, feel free to ask for advice when needed.” ■
HGI Lusaka Society Business Park
Radisson Blu, Lusaka
Radisson Blu Hotel Lusaka