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Why are rates are what they are...

Yesterday I was sent a message requesting our rates and availabilty for certain dates.

I replied with our usual information and cost according to their requirements.

The sender promptly questioned why we were so expensive, considering Malawi is such a poor country.

Now, I shouldn't be offended by this. We have received comments similar to this before but for whatever reason, this time, it really upset me and I felt the need to justify ourselves - Not that Tom necessarily agreed that we needed to justify ourselves :/

So having answered this enquiry and explained myself, I thought that maybe it would be worth putting our reasoning out there... and you never know, someone might read them :)

So here is what I said:

I know I don’t need to justify myself, and to be honest my husband doesn’t think I should, and maybe you are not interested in my justification, but I feel that I need to.

I had a whole email planned in my head yesterday as I was driving back from my shopping in Blantyre so I will try and do my best to put thoughts on to screen.

First of all, you mentioned our discounted rates that you had been shown, which you thought to be quite reasonable. These rates are only $20 off our normal prices.

Also, our rates are FULL-BOARD, meaning that for the price you are paying, you get your room with en-suite bathroom, breakfast, lunch AND a beautiful 3 course dinner.

The $360 I quoted you was for 2 people for 2 nights. I think you will find that most prices in New York, or many other places in Malawi only include breakfast.

As for the prices being high considering poverty levels in the country and Southern Africa. I think you will find that prices in Malawi are quite reasonable compared to what you will find in Tanzania, Zambia or Botswana. These prices are high as the countries are heavily dependent on imports. Countries such as Vietnam and Thailand can offer cheap food and board because they are far more self-sufficient.

While it is true it is possible to find food very cheaply here, the options available will be chicken and rice, beans and nsima etc. We serve western style food and western style food comes at a premium as most shop bought items are imported in from South Africa or further afield. I am sure you are aware that Malawian brands are similarly priced to the South African ones. Western items of food are much more expensive to buy than in Europe as I am sure you have noticed. I have never bought butter at £3 in the UK and yet £3 is the cheapest butter you can find here.

I try to buy as local as I can and am mindful of the origin of the food and the amount of packaging the items contain. I prefer to buy more expensive meat and know that the animals have been well cared for. I buy all my vegetables in Zomba and buy at a slight premium knowing that the main market vendors have bought their produce from other local market vendors who have themselves bought their produce from the farmers. By paying a bit more, we are ensuring that the money goes further into the economy. When possible we buy straight from our local communities as we understand that what Malawians need most is income, we therefore try to be as un-self-sufficient as we can so as to benefit the communities as much as possible: what good would it do them if we were to grow our own tomatoes?!

As for paying our staff, we like to think that we pay a fair wage. We also pay medical bills for themselves, their family and often their extended family as well, and a Pension. In the 9 years we have been open we have had hardly any turnover of staff. I think that speaks for itself.

Over time we have developed a symbiotic relationship with the communities around us in the sense that we depend on one other so we look after each other. To do this, we try to offer as much work and piecework as we can, knowing that the money trickles down into the local economy where it is most needed.

We also run a small conservation project to help protect the communities’ water and trees.

None of this would be possible if we were not charging the prices we charge.

Yes, we could charge less, and employ fewer people, pay less taxes and put less money into the economy. Neither do we need to be running our project that has no monetary benefit to my husband and I.

We kept all our staff over this Covid period. Had we charged less, we would not have been able to do that either.

So, I am very sorry that you think that we are raking the money in at the detriment to these poor Malawians around us, but I hope that you now have a better understanding of who we are and why we do what we do.

I would kindly suggest that next time, before jumping to conclusions, to ask first. I am always happy to talk and we are also very flexible depending on the circumstances - we have for example, offered at "ZFL light' for a family midweek.

I have attached our discount poster for your perusal as it contains our normal rates, and the discounted ones :)

Anyway, that is my tuppence worth and I hope that it makes sense :)

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