• Your full names:
LECHA: Lawrence Moagisi Lecha
• The nature and name of your business?
LECHA: LAHA Hotel, (Hospitality lodge)
• When did you start the business. What inspired you to explore opportunities in this sector?
LECHA: We, me and my wife Hannah, started this business around 2015. What prompted us to venture into this business was seeing an opportunity to service local tourists who seemed not to be adequately catered for. We realized a nich in the local market where we wanted to draw our people to Maun to come and enjoy its vast tourist related activities like boat cruises and game drives. Maun is the destination of choice to international tourists and we felt that even locals should be given the opportunity to enjoy our God given natural resources, that is why our prices are tailored to be affordable to locals but still enjoying the same type of world class service reserved for international tourists and the super rich.
• There is perception that any tourism outfit is such an expensive investment. Did you get any kind of support (funding) to start or expand?
LECHA: Yes indeed, you have to put in quite a huge investment into starting a tourist place as the requirements call for top notch international standards. Our banks do help on that front and I can proudly say we got funding from a local bank who believed in us to start this business.
• What does your day at the office entail i.e. what exactly do you do?
LECHA: A typical day at the office entails overseeing the hotel staff on various duties the main one being cleanliness of the rooms and surroundings and also dealing with bookings, payments and renovations which are a never ending story if you are to keep up the standards that I have alluded to.
• It must have been a huge shift having grown up in the city all your life only to settle in the wilderness (Maun)?
LECHA: Not really, it was an smooth transition for me. And contrary to popular belief Maun is quite a metropolitan and diverse village, it actually blends the city and the village lifestyle to come up with a unique style of its own. The thing is I have always loved the laidback lifestyle of a village setup having been born in the city and lived the bulk of my life there and Maun proved to be the best place to settle in.
• How is Maun, generally i.e. the reception to your business by the public, particularly locals?
LECHA: Maun is not bad at all. The reception of our business from the locals is lukewarm, the problem being that local tourists come sporadically, mostly during the festive season or long weekends. Those that come on business or government duty tend to patronize the big name brand hotels despite the hefty accommodation prices. We try very hard to have our standards at the same level as those big name hotels but our other small players in the market offer sub-standard services which end up impacting us negatively, because people then invariably be lump us together as one together with those. This is what makes us trail behind in this sector and I would like to take this opportunity to urge our fellow players in the market to pick up their standards so that we can compete with the big brand hotels. What people need when visiting is a comfortable bed and a clean place right from the bedding to the outside common areas.
. The tourism industry is dominated by foreigners, particularly the high end tourism with good returns. Have you found this to be the case since you settled in Maun? Why does this continue today be the case?
LECHA: That’s very true, when people think Maun they imagine what you call the high end tourist ventures. But mostly these high end tourist places are in the delta. Unfortunately the investment in the delta is quite prohibitive to a lot of Batswana but slowly our people are penetrating that area.
• Looks like a seasonal business. When is your peak and low periods?
LCHA: Like I mentioned earlier on our peak is during the festive season and long weekend holidays like Easter weekend, Presidents Holiday and Independence. Other than that we will be surviving on scraps from the big players.
• What successes have you enjoyed since starting this business?
LECHA: We have been operating at an average occupancy of around 60% to 65% before the advent of COVID-19 and that to me was a major success and quite satisfactory given that we are only about 5 years into the market. With Covid we are now at 5 to 10% but remain hopeful that things will improve soon.
• What challenges do you experience in your business/ daily operations?
LECHA: Our challenge has been the supply of water by WUC. In this business water is crucial especially clean water as you have to do constant cleaning of rooms and linen to always be in tip top standards. We thus had to buy water from private suppliers which end up taking a bulk of our finances. Electricity has also been a problem though not in the same levels as water. The idea now is to go solar so that we are always open for our customers.
• The high cost low volume policy, how does it affect your operations?
LECHA: Well, within Maun the high cost low volume policy does not really apply but it applies in the delta, so we are unaffected by it.
• There are perceptions that Tourism is for white foreigners and the rich, holidaying in the Okavango delta and Chobe.
LECHA: Yes it is true that most people think that tourism is for white foreigners and the rich, but the truth of the matter is it is not. We are constantly fighting that perception and trying to educate our people that even with a limited budget one can enjoy holidaying in Maun. The problem is these big tourist operators have a huge marketing budget hence they dwarf us on marketing and people end up noticing their prices over ours and therefore think it’s expensive everywhere. This then lead people especially locals to think the holidaying this side is only for the super rich, black or white.
• Many people in the South of the Botswana remain ignorant about places like the Okavango Delta, Maun and Kasane. What are you doing to change this?
LECHA: We are always marketing this place in all media that we can access including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and local newspapers like this one.
•We continue to live and operate within highly restrictive Covid19 Protocols. How has all this affected your year in business, any positives and negatives?
LECHA: Covid-19 has really killed us, and I mean seriously. There has really been no positives brought by this decease but only negatives. Business is at a standstill and the little that we make is barely enough to pay salaries for staff and pay utilities in order not to let the building dilapidate.