Harare isn’t quite an African business epicenter like Lagos or Johannesburg, but now that Zimbabwe is using the U.S. dollar for currency and a tenuous sense of stability has returned, it’s starting to attract more global attention. More investment and infrastructure development is happening, and the tourism and hospitality industries are growing around it. For example, fast food chain KFC returned to the city in August after a seven-year hiatus, and the popular South African Mugg & Bean franchise also opened a Harare branch in the last 12 months. As such, if you’re traveling to the city for business, here are a few good hotels to use as a base.
The Grand Dame
If you’re trying to impress clients, arrange for a meeting at the Meikles, which is Harare’s most classy downtown hotel for doing business. Celebrating a century of continuous operation in 2015, the family-owned 12-story hotel has an air of exclusivity to it that other Harare hotel’s just can’t top – it is popular with visiting executives, dignitaries, and even the odd world leader or two (security is top-notch). The address is equally powerful: right in the heart of downtown, overlooking Africa Unity Square. From a business perspective, staff here is professional but welcoming, and there is a lobby-level business center that is open 24 hours. Beyond the requisite stationary computers and printers, more useful services that can be arranged (for a fee) include lamination, comb binding, courier services and even secretarial services. Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel for a fee, and it is fast.
With 15 conference rooms of varying sizes — the largest ones can accommodate up to 30 people — and a dedicated banqueting team, Meikles also works from a conference or business party perspective. The rooftop garden, for instance, is lovely for a cocktail hour event. For the discerning business traveler on a generous expense account looking for an old world style but consistently good luxury hotel, it is hard to beat the Meikles.
The Crowne Plaza Monomotapa is another excellent business option. More reasonably priced than the Meikles, it is managed by South Africa’s excellent Sun Hotel Group and part of the Intercontinental Hotels conglomerate. A four-star rated property like the Meikles, the Monomotapa has a coveted CBD locale. It also delivers professional service – not to the level of Meikles, but decent compared to other Harare properties – and a modern global vibe inside a unique concave shaped building. It also offers conference facilities, with seven dedicated meeting suites and the ability to host up to 250 people at a conference or reception.
If you’re looking to host a more casual meeting over a meal, it is a better choice than the Meikles as there are more dining and drinking options on site. Parkview Brasserie, which does buffet-style meals, is located on the main level, just past the African-themed main lobby. Le Francais (which just received a name change and menu re-do) is also on the ground floor and offers a Gallic-influenced menu and a swanky bar. The Aquarium Lounge Bar off the second floor pool deck – don’t miss the hotel swimming pool, with a stylish mosaic tile bottom – serves cocktails in a trendy black-matte floored and shiny metal bar space for after dinner discussions.
The Exclusive Retreat
And then there is Amanzi Lodge, which is our personal favorite for conferences – especially if you’re going for a retreat vibe. Home to sultry tropical gardens, the intimate five-star boutique property offers space to stretch your legs between meetings, making a long day of doing business a lot less stuffy. The conference center is set in the main lodge and can accommodate up to 16 people when organized as a boardroom, up to 30 when a lecture hall set-up is used. Amanzi is well organized when it comes to business travel. It offers a dedicated “conference package” that in addition to room rental includes tea and coffee services, LCD projector and screen and notepads with pens for attendees. It also offers lunch and dinner catering add-ons.
Conferences aside, business travelers at Harare’s most technologically advanced hotel can use house iPads and Macbooks and the Wifi is fast and free. A spa, championship golf course, and lovely pool all add to the high-end appeal that allows you to mix business and pleasure fluently. The onsite restaurant is the best gourmet dining spot in the city. Amanzi is small, however, with just 16 rooms and suites, each very unique and themed after a different African country. And while some of the décor borders on gaudy, overall this is Harare’s most exclusive sleeping spot. Note it isn’t downtown, but is in one of the wealthier suburbs to the east of town, Highlands.