OMNI (Overseas Moving Network International) held its annual conference at the end of March, this time at the stunningly beautiful Victoria Falls in Zambia. Despite OMNI’s reputation for holding extraordinary conferences for its members, many of the delegates agreed that 2015 could well have been the best in the organisation’s 30-year history.
The venue was The Royal Livingstone Hotel, on the banks for the Zambezi river and just upstream from the awesome Victoria Falls. With the ‘Smoke that Thunders’ offering a dramatic backdrop, the delegates were treated to five-star luxury with zebra, giraffe, baboon and impala as their fellow guests. It was not your average setting, but the OMNI conference is not an average conference.
Business at OMNI
The OMNI business sessions are always well attended with a full house for every speaker. The subjects are intended to provide the right mix between entertainment, education and business advice.
Luke Terblanche gave the keynote address. He is not a professional speaker but merely a history teacher from a local school in Livingstone. He is, however, a consummate story teller and his tale about the life of David Livingstone was riveting with every member of the audience spellbound until his last word then raising as one to their feet in appreciation for a brilliant story, beautifully told.
Working in Africa requires special knowledge and skills with every one of its 54 nations providing unique challenges. Olusegun Lawal, from IAL in Nigeria, gave a detailed account of the differences and frustrations of working in Africa providing essential information for the many companies in the OMNI network who are seeing increasing traffic to the continent as Africa emerges from virtual economic obscurity to take its rightful place on the world stage.
Jeff Mason from Moveware, a conference sponsor, presented his company’s Move Transfer product that was new to many of the delegates. Move Transfer allows users to transfer files and shipment information seamlessly between themselves eliminating the need for double entry, improving efficiency and preventing human error.
OMNI then looked at the hottest topic in the corporate moving world: risk and compliance. Kay Kutt from Asian Tigers Mobility and Sylvia Papadopoulos, a lawyer and senior lecturer with the department of mercantile law at the University of Pretoria provided information from a legal perspective, from the point of view a Relocation Management Company (RMC) and from the supplier level. It was probably the most in-depth study of the subject there has yet been in open discussion in the mobility industry.
The Social Programme
The OMNI conference is well known from providing the most adventurous social programme of any industry conference in the calendar. It’s fair to say that with an exclusive delegation of just over 100 it is possible to be more creative than would be possible with 500-600 at FIDI or four times that number at IAM. That said, the programme in Zambia was still extraordinary and all provided as part of the standard delegate fee.
The welcome reception was in the hotel grounds with the sun setting over the river and a full meal served on the lawn to sustain the delegates after they had travelled many miles from their home countries.
The sunset cruise on the Zambezi aboard the vessel African Queen followed by dinner on the Royal Jetty was a relaxing contrast to the first day’s business. Delegates were instantly refreshed as the ship gently cruised the waters accompanied by elephant, hippo, and the occasional crocodile to add a little spice.
The middle day was taken over exclusively by a land and river safari in the Chobe National Park across the border in Botswana. From both the serenity of the Chobe river and the excitement of the 4 x 4 vehicles delegates got very close, sometimes a little too close maybe, to the wildlife then enjoyed a traditional Braai dinner on the way back. It was a long, dusty and fascinating day.
Business concluded on the last day in time for lunch at the Thorntree River Lodge elephant sanctuary where delegates had lunch and spent some time feeding and interacting with the magnificent creatures all of which stay within the confines of the sanctuary by choice. There were no fences. Transport to dinner was by 1922 steam train which took the delegates over the famous Victoria Falls bridge, build by Cecil Rhodes, and on to the Gwembe Village where the food was served to the accompaniment of traditional African music, dancing and the company of the local Witch Doctor.
OMNI Golf tournament
The OMNI delegates fought long and hard in the African sun for the coveted Paul Mason trophy, named after Paul Mason from John Mason International who was the competition’s organiser for many years prior to his untimely death in 2009. Wildlife again featured on the Elephant Hills course in Zimbabwe as the players shared the fairways with Warthog, Wilderbeast, Crocodile and even the rumour of a Leopard in the heavy rough. Willy Toedtli, OMNI President, came out the winner of the event with 35 Stableford points. Mary Graebel took the ladies trophy.
Corporate Social Responsibility
As part of OMNI’s continuing Corporate Social Responsibility programme, the organisation chose this year to sponsor the Ebenezer Trust School and orphanage. Board members visited the school and met the dedicated teachers and staff and the pupils whose enthusiasm for learning was inspiring. OMNI made a significant donation to the school and also collected cash donations from the delegates. The money was delivered directly, by hand, to the school principal thereby helping to ensure that every dollar could be used to enhance the children’s lives and education.
Photos: Top - Thorntree River Logde Elephant Sanctuary; Luke Terblanch; Olusegun Lawal; Jeff Mason; Sylvia Papadopoulos. Centre - (top left) The Royal Livingstone Hotel; (left) delegates at the welcome event; (centre) the steam locomotive which took delegates over the Victoria Falls bridge; (centre bottom) wildlife a the Chobe National Park; (top right) delegates competed for the Paul Mason trophy; (right centre) on the Chobe riber; (right bottom) Ebenezer Trust School and Orphanage
. Bottom - Gwembe Village. Click here to view the next Editor's pick.