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Community tourism

Felix Chaudhary
Thursday, November 02, 2017

WHAT started out as a creative way to offer its guests a unique and memorable holiday experience has begun to pay dividends for Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort.

The Korotogo property began a program a few years ago where guests paid a fee to travel into the Nadroga-Navosa hinterlands and participate in community development projects.

From when resort general manager Peter Hopgood first made contact with Conua District School in 2009, developments have not stopped as education infrastructure issues and school needs were met by the growing list of resort guests eager to spend some of their holiday time by helping out.

Over the years, Conua has received a $200,000 village meeting hall that can be used as an evacuation centre, an $80,000 kindergarten, new library and computer lab, and construction will be completed this month of a brand new classroom block.

"On November 24, we will be opening up two new classrooms at Conua District School," said Mr Hopgood.

"Our guests have been working with a team from the resort over the past 10 months to build the classrooms.

"Once we complete the classrooms, it's almost like another chapter at Conua — we finish one project and discover there is a need for another area like teachers," he said.

"We will need teachers for the additional kids in the new classrooms, so our plan is to build teachers quarters to house them — so we will be holding a groundbreaking ceremony on the same day for that."

Mr Hopgood said what made the resort's community development projects unique was the buy-in from the local community into each project.

"While we get a lot of requests for assistance, what's good about our projects is we help those who help themselves.

"And that's something that has always been our policy.

"The management board of Conua District School contributed more than $20,000 — through their own fundraising efforts — but the rest has been raised by our guests who pay to work on the project.

"What happens is they go up for half a day and spend two hours working on construction and the rest of the time is spent meeting school children and this has been a wonderful experience for them — in fact many have said it has been the highlight of their holiday."

Mr Hopgood said the community tourism offer had paid off in terms of bookings at Outrigger Fiji.

"People are looking for different experiences when they choose holidays these days and I do believe they find out about the work we do with our local community and how we give back to the local community and it just gives them all the more reason to come and stay at Outrigger Fiji.

"We have had an unbelievable five months — really high occupancies and I do believe that giving back to our community is a part of that."

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