This landlocked nation in south-central Africa is known for its copper exports, adventure, safari tourism and the Victoria Falls. It’s also another of those lesser-known African business travel destinations, yet a stable one at that.
After Zambian independence in 1964, a drought, financial mismanagement and a drop in copper prices brought economic woes to the country during the 1980s and 1990s. The late ’90s saw economic improvement, as a newly privatised mining sector started attracting foreign investment, and industries such as agriculture and tourism received greater governmental support.
Business Travel Activity
Despite being one of the supposedly less prominent business travel destinations on the continent, there was a fair amount of activity in 2012, on both the hotel and air travel fronts. February saw the announcement that KLM had introduced its first flight to Lusaka, thereby creating a direct link between Zambia’s flourishing flower industry and the Netherlands, which is the largest junction in the worldwide flower industry.
Together with Kenya Airways, KLM offers another 13 flights a week to Lusaka via Nairobi. That was followed shortly by the news that Southern Sun – now Tsogo Sun Hotels – had introduced a budget property to the country, in the form of the StayEasy Lusaka. It’s located in the Levy Business Park and has 130 rooms. At the other end of the star scale, October saw Carlson Rezidor open its first hotel in Zambia. The 142-room Radisson Blu Hotel, Lusaka is located in the commercial district on the Great East Road, and has free high-speed Wi-Fi, a restaurant, two bars, an in-house spa, fitness centre, executive lounge and conference facilities. On the airline front, Airlink increased the frequency of its daily service between Johannesburg and Ndola. The timing of the late afternoon return flights allows business travellers more time for business in the Copper Belt and in Johannesburg, as well as for late connecting passengers off long-haul and other intra-Africa routes.
Lusaka is the capital and largest city, located on the southern part of the central plateau. It’s also the commercial centre and seat of government. The mining centres of Ndola and Kitwe are also significant business centres, with their own airports, whilst Livingstone is a tourist hub and an access point to the Victoria Falls. Kenneth Kaunda International Airport is located about 13 kilometres from the Lusaka CBD.
“Arrival into Lusaka is generally a pleasant experience,” says Chris Schuitmaker, Manager: Regional Business & Partner Management Africa for HRG Rennies. “The immigration staff are fairly friendly and helpful. Generally, the immigration queues are not too long and there’s a small but convenient waiting area to pick up baggage. Banks, foreign exchange bureax and ATMs are situated as you exit immigration and customs. Taxis are available at negotiated rates, but most hotels provide airports transfers, if booked in advance.”
The vast majority of Zambia’s roads are not tarred, and gravel or dirt roads are often in poor condition. Car rental is available in Lusaka and Ndola, but most cars come with a chauffeur – making rental fairly expensive. Local traffic conditions are often chaotic and short-term visitors are advised to make use of taxis. The Zambezi Express is a reliable train that runs from Livingstone to Lusaka several times weekly.
Passport holders from the following African countries do not require visas – Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Business travellers can obtain a visa at the port of entry, but must produce an invitation letter. Business visits by a single individual cannot exceed 30 days in a 12-month period.
Zambia’s cell phone network coverage is expanding, but can be unreliable in rural areas. Internet connectivity is still relatively expensive, and while Internet cafes are easily found in Lusaka and Livingstone, access is often limited outside the main urban centres.
Focusing on Lusaka, the most prominent international brands are Radisson Blu and InterContinental, whilst Tsogo Sun and Protea both have a pair of properties. Protea actually has seven properties in Zambia, including the two in Lusaka – the Protea Cairo Road and the Protea Lusaka – and one property in Livingstone. Tsogo operates the StayEasy Lusaka and the Southern Sun Ridgeway, which was formerly the Holiday Inn.
“For me, the recommended hotels in Lusaka are the Hotel InterContinental, the Pamodzi Hotel, the new Radisson Blu, Cresta Lodge, and the Golden Bridge Hotel, whilst there are also many other boutique hotels and budget lodges,” says Schuitmaker. Further south in the tourist centre of Livingstone and in close proximity to the Victoria Falls, Sun International operates the 5-star Royal Livingstone and the 3-star Zambezi Sun, whilst further up the Zambezi river, Royal Chundu’s two lodges stand out among the lodge options.
Visitors are advised to purchase full travel insurance, including cover for medical evacuation by air. Zambia is relatively safe and its people friendly, but visitors should be vigilant and avoid walking around in urban areas at night. Use only reputable banks and bureaux de change, as counterfeit notes are a problem.
Vaccinations for polio, typhoid, rabies and Hepatitis A are recommended, as are Malaria prophylaxis. Insect repellent is also important to prevent being bitten by tsetse flies, which spread African sleeping sickness. Don’t swim or wade in bodies of fresh water, due to bilharzia. Avoid food from street vendors and ensure drinking water is bought in sealed bottles.
Population: 14 million
Time zone: GMT+2
Plugs: Two and three-prong round, three-prong rectangular
Dialling code: +260
Currency: Zambian kwacha and US dollars. Exchange rate: $1=5250ZMK
Language: English and over 70 local dialects – among them, Bemba, Lozi, Tonga and Nyanja
Air Botswana – airbotswana.co.bw
Air Namibia – airnamibia.com.na
Air Zimbabwe – airzimbabwe.com
Airlink – flyairlink.com
BA – ba.com
Delta Air Lines – delta.com
EGYPTAIR – egyptair.com
Emirates – emirates.com
Ethiopian Airlines – flyethiopian.com
Iberia – iberia.com
Kenya Airways – kenya-airways.com
KLM – klm.com
Precision Air – precisionairtz.com
Proflight – proflight-zambia.com
SAA – flysaa.com
SA Express – flyexpress.aero
Turkish Airlines – turkishairlines.com
Cresta Golfview – crestagolfviewhotel.com
Garden Group – gardengroupzambia.com
Golden Bridge – goldenbridgezambia.com
InterContinental – ichotelsgroup.com
Lusaka Hotel – lusakahotel.com
Protea Lusaka – proteahotels.com
Radisson Blu – radissonblu.com
Royal Chundu Lodges – royalchundu.com
Royal Livingstone – suninternational.com
Taj Pamodzi – tajhotels.com
Three Cities – threecities.co.za
Southern Sun – tsogosunhotels.com
StayEasy Lusaka – tsogosunhotels.com