Beyond a series of plateaus overlooking rolling valleys behind Harare’s plush Borrowdale suburb lies Sterling Boutique Lodge — a jewel in the crown of Zimbabwe’s leisure industry.
The 14-bed facility been entertaining local and international businesses and leisure travellers since the onset of the pandemic in 2019, the year hard lockdowns devastated scores of its peers, wiping over US$1 billion out of the country’s tourism industry.
But the fact that many more are still trooping back to experience Sterling’s extraordinary product — including conference facilities, demonstrates its increasing influence in Harare, riding on its strategic location in reclusive, yet tranquil environment.
Arriving at the top end facility on a Monday three weeks ago, the mid-morning July weather was unforgiving.
But the fine hospitality overwhelmed the unpredictable winter weather.
I immediately recognise lodge manager, Mildred.
A decade ago, she hosted me in the middle of the bush at one of the finest safari Lodges in Hwange National Park, so we struck deeper conversation, reflecting on our brief encounter in 2013.
At the front office I was struck by a mixture of unrestricted hospitality and high-end furniture.
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But I fall in love with the sculpture of a ‘charging’ elephant bull.
It was threatening to ‘trumpet’ in revolt, but I was unperturbed.
The leisure lover in me pressed, for an evening more insightful conversation with Trythings Mutyandasvika (TM), general manager of the Sterling Group of Hotels. Here is how our conversation turned out…
SM: When did the lodge open for business?
TM: We started operating in 2019 during the Covid period. Business was not as high, but it is now picking up. We are starting to see our old clients, as well as new guests coming through. There has been very good feedback from corporates. We are hoping that this year, we will host quite a number of them.
SM: Tell us about the Sterling group
TM: We have three hotels, one in Mvurwi, another in Bulawayo and this one. We will also be having a new 30-bedroom hotel, which will open in September close by. The group is growing, we want to spread across Zimbabwe, and beyond. This is the vision that we have. There is something (coming up) in Shurugwi and Binga.
SM: Tell us about Binga, it sounds exciting
TM: There are lots of opportunities there. There are lovely sites in Binga, and from now going forward I see people actually loving to travel to Binga. There are places that have been oversubscribed and I think some tourists will divert to Binga.
SM: And Mvurwi?
TM: In Mvurwi the attraction were as farmers. We are having quite a bit of people coming through to stay with us from the farming community, and they are actually quite grateful that we have opened accommodation facilities there. We do both traditional and foreign foods. We believe in giving people what they want. We have got a wonderful chef who is talented in providing traditional and English cuisines.
SM: Why did you choose this location?
TM: Our location makes us very unique. We are away from all the noise. If you come here for conferencing, you can work and produce what you want without any disturbances. There is also food. We try as much as possible to make sure that our food is in order and our service is good because when a person comes, all they want is for their stomachs to be looked after and experience a perfect service. We actually nurse our guests. We always want to make sure that our guests will remember us when they leave.
SM: What are the prospects for Zimbabwe’s tourism?
TM: Tourism at the moment is coming up. With the opening up of the nice airport (expanded Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport), I foresee a boom in tourism. This is a market that will actually bring Zimbabwe up in terms of foreign currency. We just need to make sure that we produce the best service, the best food and everything so that at least people will get attracted to tourism in Zimbabwe.