Over time, tourism has become a fast growing sector in Zimbabwe. Tourist destinations such as Victoria Falls have at one time experienced shortages in accommodation in high season periods resulting to several individuals transforming their homes into lodges. You may be located in non tourist areas but nothing can stop you from starting a lodge business. People always need accommodation whether overnight, for a holiday and even attending work functions and meetings. Let us go through what you need to start this business. A lodge can provide the public and travelers with formal and overnight accommodation. You need to carry out market research and have a good business plan before starting a lodging business.
What you need
Knowledge of your competition
Remember there are competitors who have been operating in this industry well before you. Doing a SWOT Analysis might help you analyze the industry and help you understand what you need so you can position the lodge business in this market. You need to research and discover your entry point or a niche you can explore and maximize on.
Savings plus a loan would do you good in setting up a lodge business. You need collateral and if you are building from scratch on a new piece of land, you may get a mortgage. Planning is essential as it will help you understand the amount of risk you are taking and to assess whether starting a lodging business is worth your while. If you have your own property you may need at least $20 000 to refurbish it into a modern lodge. You will need the capital to purchase furniture, equipment and motor vehicles (guest bus, purchasing and supplies van and a messenger car).
License and Insurance
Once you have the appropriate funding apply for a license with the Tourism Authority. First register your company. Your license has to be renewed every year and you must budget for an annual renewal fee. Select an insurance cover and start paying your subscriptions. Insurance covers your lodge business in dreadful unexpected events.
You need a neat, clean and properly furnished property for your lodge business. Location is important for the success of your lodging business. You have to make sure your property is located in quiet areas such as Newlands, Belvedere, Mandara and Kamfinsa for someone planning on doing the lodge business in Harare. For Bulawayo you can consider areas such as Moningside, Hillside and Surburbs. Victoria Falls has a lower spacious density area. Guests always prefer exclusive environments where they have privacy. Properties are quite pricey and therefore evaluate and decide on either purchasing and stand and building or purchasing a property designed in an easy format to convert into as lodge. Locate your lodge in a marketable area where you are guaranteed of receiving guests because maintenance costs are so high that profits are critical.
Furniture and Equipment
The lodge has to be furnished with different types of office furniture starting from the reception area, rooms, the restaurant, passage ways and offices. You will need an interior designer to help you with the designing. Furniture can be expensive especially considering that the lodge needs to be classy, you may perhaps need to auction a tender or consider purchasing outside the country.
Management and staff for a lodge business
You will need a reservationist, guest services personnel, housekeepers, food and beverages head and an operations head. Most importantly you need an accounts department to co-ordinate and account for all activities in the lodge. You also need a stock controller who does all purchase and supplies for the lodge. You also need a gardener and grounds man.
Profitability and costs
Monthly costs are for salaries, general cleaning supplies, rates and electricity and food supplies, liquor and beverages. You need a cheaper distributor or you may purchase from outside in South Africa. Make your in house restaurant a classy one by creating a wide menu which offers variety and specials. Price ranges for dinner, lunch, high tea and even accommodation with breakfast should be around the market range in order to make you competitive but at the same time affordable. For a lodge getting at least 10-15 customers daily, your revenue may be at least $150 000 per annum. Costs may cumulate to more than half of the revenue and it is important you manage costs efficiently to maintain a higher profit margin.
The business needs to be advertised in order to increase awareness and to spur public interest. You may need to employ different marketing tactics such as the use of fliers and a website. To add on, you may offer discount packages and promotional items.
Tips for running the lodge business
Your formal accommodation must be complemented with natural surroundings with a garden area, scenic for example a small pond surrounded with flowers and other plants. Nature attracts guests because it offers a serene peaceful environment where they can rest and relax.
Put a lot of work into maintaining the buildings appearance. To have an excellent appearance carry out minor maintenance that may be as a result of natural weathering to the building exterior. First impressions matter and affect the way the public views your lodge. Although your lodge may offer five star service but the outlook maybe repulsive. Good outlook will mean greater success for your lodge business.
Tourism is inspired by the service excellence, it is a driving motto. You need to be time conscious and offer the best quality. First, set up a help desk on the website and at the reception area. The help desk has to be attended to 24/7. Guests may post reviews on the internet about your lodge and these only need to be the positive and good. You need to have a full functional 24 hour room service, guest service and front office personnel. To add on, there must be concierge services and housekeeping services. Restaurants and bars must have flexible operational time for example opening time may be 6am to 10pm in the evening to cater for breakfast to dinner. Good customer care will bring more customers to your lodge business.
To add on, offer other miscellaneous services such as child handling, phone, newspaper delivery, taxi services and historical maps and town maps. Guests may prefer a hotel guide to take them on a guided tour around town and the lodge may do so at an additional cost.
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