A fitting send-off

Outrigger Fiji Resort’s Kinijoji Sarai (left) won the Fiji Pride Champion Award and Navneet Reddy won the Emerging Tourism Leader award during the 23rd Annual ANZ Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards at Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa in Denarau Nadi. Picture: REINAL CHAND

KINIJOJI Sarai has spent a good 34 years of service in the Fijian tourism industry and his recent accomplishment at the ANZ Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards is an added bonus to his retirement package.

The Fiji Pride Champion award could not come at a better time for the former Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort guest activities manager who took an early retirement after COVID-19 hit the country last year.

“What a good send-off, a blessing in disguise of course for me after all the years I have spent at Outrigger and other properties along the Coral Coast,” Mr Sarai, 56, said.

“I am indeed honoured and blessed that my service to people from around the globe who preferred Fiji as their perfect holiday destination has been recognised.

“This award is for every individual who shaped me to be the person I am today. I thank the managers who believed in me and the hundreds of visitors I have served and ensured their stay at the Coral Coast was a memorable one.”

When the pandemic hit the country last year, Mr Sarai was one of the few experienced Outrigger staff who gave up his job to allow younger employees to keep their jobs so they could still provide for their families.

The Tagaqe, Nadroga native said his work in the tourism industry mostly revolved around ensuring healthy relationships were maintained between the resorts and the vanua.

He was the cultural advisor to a number of general managers at the Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort and he was the link from the vanua to the resort.

He has also won a number of in-house awards for his work dedication but the Fiji Pride Champion was the icing on the cake for the grandfather of four children.

“It was quite emotional receiving the award looking back at the 30 good years of my life I have spent in the tourism industry and how I gave my best to ensure tourists enjoyed their stay on our shores.

“This award as well is for the Coral Coast, a place which is well known to tourists from around the globe and every individual who worked wholeheartedly in the hospitality industry.”

While COVID-19 may have taken its toll on the industry, Mr Sarai, a former national rugby fullback has urged young Fijian tourism workers to maintain the Bula smiles and keep striving for the “storm will be over soon”.

He urged those who have lost their jobs from the COVID-19 pandemic to keep striving for the best in whatever they were doing as success would only come to those who strive for it.

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