When the strongest cyclone ever recorded in the South Pacific went straight over the top of Paradise Taveuni Resort and basically destroyed the place, Fiji tourism took a hit too.
The resort, run by Allan and Terri Gortan, was a popular dive and tourism destination for many. When communications were restored, Majestic Hospitality consultant Dr. Paddy Ryan contacted them to see how they were. They weren’t. Waves had broken over the 15 foot cliffs and wiped out the dive shed, the restaurant and almost all the accommodation units. The 150 mph winds stripped the roofs and the storm surge completed the devastation. Paddy asked if they’d prefer a contribution equivalent to the round trip airfare or his help in their proposed rebuild. They opted for the help.
What transpired over the next week was extraordinary. Although paid, local villagers turned up in their dozens, and friends of the resort including carpenters and electricians from Australia, New Zealand and the USA gave freely of their time.
Within a week the rubble had been cleared and new, Category 5 strengthened buildings started to appear. Several trees, previously considered unsalvageable after being knocked down were replanted. A new rock wall was built by wheel barrow and by hand. A solitary cement mixer ran all day and and several of us ran load after load of cement and rocks to the boys building the wall.
Dr. Ryan left before the buildings were complete but he, and Managing Director Chris Henry were able to visit last year and were delighted to see the new resort.
There are lessons for us all here. Most of the folk who volunteered to come and help were former guests. They came back because the place and the people had made such an impact on them. They paid their own airfares and gave freely of their time to help in the resurrection.
The work was mostly carried out by local Fijian who were aware of the importance the biggest local employer had on their lives.
It behoves all of us to be aware of our impact on our guests and our local communities.
Dr. Ryan left after a week, badly sunburned and with blisters on his hands. But he left with profound respect for the resilience of this amazing extended community.
May 5, 2023