The story begins with two partners of the management company who initially bought a beach lodge on Lake Malawi in 2007.
Reconfiguring its layout, and corresponding refurbishment work, transformed Kaya Mawa into a high-end chic beach escape which has won numerous accolades from an array of prestigious travel juries, including Conde Nast who recently voted it as one of the top five romantic getaways in Africa.
Having been asked by various people to "check things out" in various sectors in Africa, and having hence experienced the quality of urban African hotels, the idea grew that many cities were lacking decent offerings and that this was an opportunity.
Staying close to home, the pilot project was in Lilongwe, Malawi and the birth of Latitude 13. Refurbishment and extending the footprint of the ex-Japanese ambassadors residence, confirmed the hunch that there was a huge appetite amongst local residents for a top-end fine-dining restaurant, and amongst visitors for a boutique hotel (with dependable security, wifi, satellite TV, first rate F&B) which was popular with the locals also. Customers include embassies, NGOs, corporates (tobacco companies, resource companies, banks, accounting firms), civil servants and government ministers.
On the back of this success, the management team has secured further equity backing to expand the concept elsewhere.
Latitude 15 in Lusaka, Zambia opened for business in Sept 2014, within 18 months of purchasing the site (compared to 7-8 years it takes major hotel brands from initial concept to opening), and has been cash flow positive from its very first month.
Further expansion is planned to take in Kampala, Nairobi, Dar Es Salaam, Maputo, Harare, Bujumbura, Addis Ababa and Kigali over coming years. The brand DNA incorporates the belief that a unique African-centric hospitality group can provide the very best of experiences at a reasonable cost. The success of each offering requires a strong local flavour with a contemporary feel - which means building strong local partnerships, and emphasizing local art and the charisma of the local pool of labour available. Consequently, the cookie-cutting, formulaic approach which blurs brand recognition is replaced by a contemporary, sprightly and fresh series of offerings, showcasing the very best of local talent, each of them unique and yet recognized as part of a growing African brand.