The Essential Art of Inclusion on the Zambezi River


We Are Best When We Are Our Unique Selves ~ And Other Royal Chundu Rules

At this year’s get-together with our Relais & Châteaux Africa and Indian Ocean family, we invited some of our hotels and lodges to share their “best practices” ~ regarding, for instance, social media, sustainability, supporting partners, and community. Royal Chundu owner and MD, Tina Aponte stood before us to share her words on the latter – on creating a sense of place on the Zambezi River and empowering the community that makes you who you are. Take a look below at three essential Royal Chundu rules, as shared by Tina.



Community is at the heart and soul of everything that we do at Royal Chundu.

Community is our foundation. By definition, foundation is the lowest load-bearing part of a building. And there are two types: shallow or deep. Deep foundations are for tall buildings that last a long time. This is our aim.

For Royal Chundu, it is the underlying basic principle of our business – not an adjacent column in an annual report; not a separate arm or window-dressing. 70% of all our income goes back to our community through staff, services, school and supplies.


How we do this is through three philosophies:

1. Employ and promote locally
2. Empower women
3. Create a marketplace



Employ and promote locally

– Make everyone active stakeholders as this creates responsibility
– Management are profit partners
– Weekly financial dashboards, monthly financial packs: management will fight me on balance sheet items and capex considerations now as confidence has grown over these past 10 years
– Pay your staff well to keep your staff well
– 10% top line without skirting
– By paying well we have very little to no staff turnover (this is a good health check of any business: staff retention)




Empower Women

– Women create the moments of lift and they lift humanity as a consequence (Read Melinda Gates’ The Moment of Lift for more on this)
– Put the women in charge of specific decisions – not just filling a titled role
– Make women visible, visibility creates power, and with power the barriers fall, as stated by Ruth Bader Ginsberg when quoting Sandra Day O’Connor (the first ever woman judge on the Supreme Court. Ruth was second)



Create a marketplace

– Whenever something needs to be done, look within
– Our buying or service supporting rule is: local, regional, national, outside
– Whether it’s refuse pickup services, transfer vehicle companies, seeds, food, and fish

We need to reflect our sense of place or else we will all end up looking the same, tasting the same, being the same: an homogenised experience that can be found everywhere in the world instead of being our unique selves. We don’t look different by importing some foreign aesthetic or business practice.




You look and are different by being you. In a world of monocultures and superimposed ideals, such as big farm (with an F not PH!) and Molten Brown for all, we need to look within and honour who we are by incorporating and including our communities as the foundation of all our business practices thereby creating a truly unique sense of place by empowering our own people.

When you harness this as your foundation. you allow an organic, genuine sense of place where everyone enjoys the success of your endeavours, not just a brass/glass head office removed from it all. We are best when we are our unique selves and not trying to be something else.