A cut above the rest
30 November, 2017, 12:00 am
IN 2010, Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort decided it had enough resources to influence surrounding communities and its guests, and at the same time reshape the lives of its employees and their families.
The resort chose the district of Conua, located about 15 minutes inland from the Kavanagasau end of the Sigatoka River, as a community that needed attention, and therein began the building and reinforcement of an endearing organisational culture that has drawn the admiration of many.
Today, Conua is an intrinsic part the resort’s business.
One of Outrigger Fiji’s corporate social responsibility efforts is focused on liberating this society through education.
That decision seven years ago marked the important first step in the right direction.
When the resort first made contact with Conua District School, there were 55 students enrolled. Today the school has more than 125 students, with another 30 in kindergarten. This number is expected to grow to more than 180 next year.
Resort general manager Peter Hopgood said his team was proud they were able to make a difference in the lives of children from Conua.
“We have built new libraries, computer labs, meeting bure and last year we opened the new Eddie Betts kindergarten,” he said of the work the resort has done in the community over the past seven years.
Last Friday, Betts and his wife Anna were at Conua to witness the opening of a $100,000 classroom block.
A professional Aussie rules football player, Betts and the Adelaide Crows football team contributed to the construction of the school kindergarten.
The cost of the new classrooms was funded with the support from resort guests. Every Tuesday and Thursday guests were invited to join staff members and villagers in the construction of the new building, guided by the resort’s engineering team.
“When you speak to our guests, they passionately state that the best part of their holiday was the time they spent with the school children at Conua District School,” Mr Hopgood said.
The construction was in fact funded through a unique community tourism initiative pioneered by Outrigger Fiji where resort guests pay $100 to participate in building works.
Through this initiative, Conua has received a $200,000 meeting hall and evacuation center, an $80,000 kindergarten and new computer lab and revamped library.
Hard work pays
Mr Hopgood said Outrigger believed in helping those who helped themselves.
The school management team contributed $20,000 to the classroom project. The school also achieved a remarkable 85 per cent pass rate last year compared with the 48 per cent achieved in 2015.
“These children are our future and the support and guidance that you give them at this young age is invaluable.”
Doing things differently
Every month a departments at the resort undertakes a community project, whether it be with a local village, school or even the district hospital.
Mr Hopgood said the food and beverage team raised about $30,000 for a young boy from Navua who had chronic kidney failure. The sales and reservations team also organised a walk for kids event and raised $14,000 for the Sigatoka Special School.
A day after the opening of the classroom block at Conua, the resort was also heavily involved in a charity event where Coral Coast properties raised more than $70,000 for the Sigatoka District Hospital.
One of the property’s greatest success stories, however, emanates from the resort kitchen where more than 80 chefs work. All homegrown, 90 per cent started their career as trainee chefs.
Executive chef Shailesh Naidu is also the brainchild of the Secondary Schools Chef Challenge which started five years ago with one school. This year 16 schools entered the competition.
And just three weeks ago, the resort hosted 20 eye surgeons from the United States. Over the past five years the team have overseen more than 4000 consultations, undertaking surgical procedures that restored eyesight to over 400 locals.
Cut above the rest
The resort’s CSR efforts have not gone unnoticed.
At a corporate function the same night the classroom block was opened, chief guest Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum lauded Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort’s CSR efforts.
He said the Korotogo property’s engagement with the local community was a cut above the rest.
“I have to go out on a limb and say this, and this is actually from the heart, that the Outrigger in many respects outshines all the resorts that we have in Fiji,” he said.
“I don’t think there is any resort in Fiji that has that level of community engagement that the Outrigger has.”
These sentiments were shared by Hawaii-based chief marketing officer and executive vice president Outrigger Enterprises, Sean Dee.
“The A-G’s comments were very kind but also very accurate and what we have seen over the last few years is that the way people are traveling is changing,” he said.
“While they expect great service and great product — food and beverage to really exceed their expectations — we find that people do want to get more engaged on their trip and participate in the local communities especially in places like Fiji, Mauritius and Thailand where the local culture and villages support the host.
“So it has somewhat organically grown.
“It was unintentional, it is very authentic and it has clearly happened in a major way in Fiji and it is an inspiration for the rest of the Outrigger properties across the globe.”