Hopgood reflects on Fiji

Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort General Manager Peter Hopgood (left) with Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, Outrigger Enterprises Group President and CEO Jeff Wagoner and Tourism Industry Pioneer Geoffrey Shaw during his farewell ceremony on Friday Night. Picture: SHAYAL DEVI

ALMOST eight years ago, an Australian was handed the reins to manage a resort located on the outskirts of Sigatoka Town.

Mixing with local culture and boosting occupancy rates are some of the key challenges for Peter Hopgood.

However, with the backing of management and executives, he managed to transform the resort into one of Fiji’s most popular properties, one with a rich background in community service.

This month marks the end of Mr Hopgood’s tenure at the resort. He is leaving because of personal reasons.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said Mr Hopgood’s achievements have not gone unnoticed.

The AG said Mr Hopgood was the “sort of expatriate the country needed.”

During a farewell ceremony last week, Mr Hopgood said his Fijian experience had been a wonderful journey.

“When I first came to Fiji eight and a half years ago, I didn’t know what to expect, it was a new environment and a new culture for me,” he said.

His move to Fiji was made considerably easier after striking up a friendship with Fijian tourism industry stalwart, Geoffrey Shaw, the then-owner of Castaway Island Resort.

With his guidance and support, Mr Hopgood started the conversation to introduce new restaurants and facilities for guests.

One of these initiatives was the construction of the $2.2 million Vahavu Adults Only pool, bar and kitchen area.

“It allowed me to build a team and culture at the resort and this was the key element to our success.

“Our culture at Outrigger and also worldwide has been about guest service and delivery of quality holiday experiences.

“I’m not boasting here but once you win a few awards, you know you’re on the right track. Over my eight years here, we have been the Best Deluxe Resort in Fiji five times.

“Over the years, people ask me. Why has Outrigger been so successful?

“I guess the simple answer is we are different. We’re always looking for alternate means to enhance guest service.” One of the ways the resort has done this is by introducing the Meimei Nanny service.

“When I first came to Fiji in 2009, I was always wandering around the resort and Western children were gravitating towards the Fijian men and women. “So one of my staff was coming back from maternity leave and she explained how they raised the children in the Fijian village and I said, that’s what I want in my resort.

“So we set out to set up a professional nanny service from scratch, we came up with the name Meimei and we wanted to be the best nanny service in Fiji, with first aid certification and all.”

Mr Hopgood said they started with six nannies.

The number has risen to 45 full time nannies today.

Apart from this, a large focus for the resort has been weddings. Mr Hopgood said the resort hosted about 40 weddings annually when he first started. This doubled in his second year of work.

Last year the resort hosted 230 weddings.

A large part of the resort’s success has also been the appointment of Fijian executive management. Mr Hopgood said from the staff of nearly 600, only three expatriates, including him, worked at the resort.

This isn’t all.

Community work has also been a large part of Mr Hopgood’s vision.

The resort’s work in the community has gained accolades from local partners and stakeholders. Mr Hopgood and his team have been involved with Conua District School, Sigatoka School for Special Education, Korotogo Andhra Primary School and the Sigatoka Hospital.

“Over the years, we’ve involved ourselves in your schools, your hospitals and we thank you for that.

This (last) week alone we opened a new playground for Korotogo Andhra, donated $22,000 to the Sigatoka School for Special Education and given $3000 worth of sporting equipment to Conua District.

These donations are made possible with support are made possible with support from guests who come back.

“I think I have achieved everthing I could have possibly achieved in this beautiful country.
“The first couple of years were really tough as we developed the resort and as we went along, we were able to employ more staff and create facilities.
“My team, we’ve all worked hard, please embrace what we’ve worked hard on, don’t get distracted and stay loyal to the guest experience and other staff members, it’s important to maintain it.”

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