FIJIANS are naturally hospitable and this gift resonated deeply in a traditional ceremony yesterday in which landowners embraced the new owners of Castaway Island Resort as one of their own.
In an emotional event at Solevu Village on Malolo Island, Tui Lawa Ratu Sevanaia Vatunitu Lalabalavu welcomed 80-year-old Dr Richard Kelley in a ritual usually reserved for chiefs.
Dr Kelley and his son Charles were part of an entourage from Hawaii-based Outrigger Enterprises — a family-owned and -operated company — that last week took over the popular Mamanuca property.
"You are part of our community, you are part of our chiefly family," the Tui Lawa's herald told Mr Kelley.
"The chief and the people welcome you."
The first meeting of these two major stakeholders was a bittersweet one, as also in attendance was former owner Geoffrey Shaw, whose popularity in the industry is no secret.
The Tui Lawa said he hoped his great working relationship with Mr Shaw would continue.
Mr Shaw informed the landowners he was not severing ties as he would remain as a consultant for the next five years.
Dr Kelley's said Outrigger Enterprises was a family-owned company and shared the values espoused by Mr Shaw.
He said growing up in the Pacific, his family had a deep appreciation for indigenous traditions and culture.
Outrigger Enterprises has also bought Mr Shaw's majority stake in the Coral Coast-based Outrigger on the Lagoon.