Villages adopt tourism

A NEW taste of backpacker experience is being offered to tourists who visit the Yasawa Group.

Villages are setting up their own Fijian bure accommodation, offering international visitors the opportunity to experience an authentic Fijian village lifestyle.

One such district in the island chain that has adopted this new means of earning money experience is Nacula. Almost all of the seven villages have ventured into their own homestay business.

Recently we visited Navotua, which has three homestay bure situated in front of a picturesque beachfront.

The village population of 107 all contribute to providing services like entertainment, village tours and homemade meals.

Navotua Village headman Ame Rokotuibau said all of their services were included in one payment paid sometimes manually to the villagers.

“For a couple, they pay $230 per night and that includes all of their meals and their transfer to and from the Yasawa Flyer or seabus,” he said.

“For a single person, we charge $207.”

He said they were hoping to attract more visitors with the introduction of their website.

“On a weekly basis, we could get four or five people staying with us.”

The village is located in the northern Yasawa Group and is situated directly opposite the famous Sawa-i-Lau Caves.

Mr Rokotuibau said other activities like cave visits incurred extra charges.

“A lot of our visitors want to go to the caves and it is one of our biggest attractions.”

During our recent visit to the village, a team from this newspaper accompanied representatives from WWF-Pacific, an NGO that has been working with the community on climate resilient and value adding projects, to the limestone cave island that was only a 15 minute boat ride from Navotua.

Every visitor to the cave system has to present an i-sevusevu before setting foot on the island.

Apart from their earnings from the homestay and extra activities for guests, the village has also been incorporating their own brand of homemade products.

Navotua brand products include deep fried sweet potatoes as well as breadfruit and banana chips.

All crops are planted, cooked and packed by the villagers themselves.

Navotua WWF-Pacific representative Suliasi Waqalevu said they wanted to sell their own products to guests to give them a truly authentic experience.

He said having their own Navotua brand displayed in the bure was an important marketing and branding strategy.

One line of product that has seen much success is the Nawaitauvou coconut virgin oil.

Company co-director Sesarina Nawaitauvou makes the virgin oil, which is tested regularly at the Koronivia Research Station to ensure purity and quality was maintained consistently.

The company also makes bathing soap and dishwashing paste.

These products are unique to the Yasawa chain and are featured in a number of boutique resorts in the Nacula district.

“We have a market,” she said.

“The important thing is that we keep producing these products for our guests so that we can really sell our Navotua brand.”

While the homestay concept is not new in the district, the sale of the “new” products has resulted in another money making opportunity.

Nacula district spokesman Saimone Naivalu said there were about 20 tourist operators in the district.

He said Navotua has set an example for other villagers to create their own line of products as an alternative source of income.

“When they come all the way to the Yasawa and they choose to stay at one of our homestays then they should be given the most authentic not only Fijian, but the true Yasawan and Nacula experience,” he said.

More Stories