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OBITUARY: The Man Who Changed Fiji Tourism Forever

OBITUARY: The Man Who Changed Fiji Tourism Forever
The late Mr Martin Darveniza.
June 13
15:36 2018

Martin Darveniza died in Australia late Wednesday evening (June 6).

His son Nicholas said: “Dad was a devoted family man whose love of his children, his friends and his pride in his work knew no bounds. He left a mark on all he touched and his legacy will be remembered forever.”

Mr Darveniza was a man who feared no one and nothing and would set his objective and pursue it until he had completed the task.

Mr Darveniza was famous for his energy, perseverance, composure in the face of difficulty and for having a clear vision and staying with it to the end.

He is also fondly remembered by many col­leagues in the tourism industry in Fiji as good company and a dedicated friend in difficult times.

Early life

Mr Darveniza was born an Australian and spent the first part of his life there, gradu­ating as a solicitor and specialising in legal management of real estate, working with a respected law firm.

A chance visit to Fiji for a few days rest on a return business trip to Japan in 1986 opened his eyes to the remarkable opportu­nities in the tourism industry in the coun­try and on returning to Australia he began to take a close interest in the industry in Fiji.

Denarau concept

The concept of Denarau Island Resort was developed by Dennis McIlraith, an early de­veloper in the area of tourism resorts in Fiji who built the Regent (now under the Westin brand) a 300-room resort on the beach.

He also oversaw the building of the Golf and Racquet Club and the golf course and in 1985 started the Sheraton Fiji Resort next to the Regent, which was opened in late 1987.

In 1988 a Japanese group, EIE Corpora­tion took over the property and, under the guidance of Andrew Turnbull undertook the formidable task of raising the swampland with two and a half million tons of soil brought in by truck from the other side of Nadi.

The task was almost complete when EIE went into receivership in 1995 and the op­portunity Mr Darveniza had been seeking presented itself.

Opportunity

The resort was sold to a consortium involving Tabua Investments Limited, ITT Shera­ton and Air Pacific.

ITT Sheraton from Boston in the United States purchased outright the Sheraton Fiji Resort and the Regent of Fiji and a 50 per cent interest in the golf course.

Air Pacific through its wholly owned sub­sidiary Richmond Limited acquired the site immediately to the east of the Westin for the development of a 300 room resort hotel.

Tabua Investments acquired 50 per cent interest in the Denarau Golf and Racquet Club and the balance of the land by a joint venture of New Zealand interests including the principals of Fay Richwhite, a subsidi­ary of Brierley Investments, Howard Pater­son and Peter Thomson.

Mr Darveniza was appointed as CEQ and managing director of Tabua Investments and set about moving the development for­ward.

He undertook a complex change where the resort land became Native Title, residential was Freehold and the rest Crown Lease.

Sheraton villas

He then constructed the Sheraton Villas, the first strata title property in Fiji which opened in May 1999 as a managed apart­ment operation.

The first release of the residential prop­erty, ultimately a total of three hundred and thirty-three lots were made in the same year.

Activity then moved forward quickly with the rest of the hotel and resort projects coming to completion and the Port Denarau Commercial Complex starting in 2006.

Mr Darveniza decided to explore other op­portunities and left Fiji, working with tour­ism developers in South East Asia but often coming back to Fiji for the odd project and to catch up with old friends.

He had spent just over twenty years in Fiji and created one of the most successful resort areas in the South Pacific, took the whole tourism industry to a new level and made Fiji one of the top tourism vacation destinations.

Changing the tourism industry

He changed the whole tourism industry in Fiji during his time here, took the industry to a new level and created a new culture amongst the resort owners.

While Mr Darveniza was here he also con­tributed to the wider business community, was available for service on government committees and served on several boards.

His impact will be felt for a long time in the future and because he showed that very large developments could be successfully done in Fiji a number of other people took the risks and many great tourism projects have been added to the Fiji inventory.

In 2012 he was awarded the Lifetime Tourism Award by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

Martin remembered

A long time friend, Bruce Philips, who worked on many projects on Denarau dur­ing Mr Darveniza’s tenure, says “Martin was an extraordinary man, always doing three things at ones.

“He could dictate a letter to his personal assistant while answering phones and re­viewing plans and the letter would come out word perfect.

“He was married and had two kids and they were very close, they were with him when he died.

“He was a strong rugby supporter and al­ways ready to help players.

“When the Radisson Blu Resort Fiji Dena­rau Island was being built the project start­ed to fall behind schedule so Mr

Darveniza closed the site, got every worker into the Sheraton ballroom, gave them a tee shirt that said “Yes we can” and spoke to them.

“He then showed the workers Fiji’s win in the Hong Kong Sevens game that the Wais­ale Serevi-led team won.

“Then Serevi appeared and gave an incred­ibly inspirational speech.

“They all went back to work and the Radis­son was finished on time.

“Mr Darveniza could make people do amazing things.

“His office had three doors and he would close a meeting and usher the visitor out while his personal assistant, Liz Morris would usher someone else in through an­other door. Martin was tireless”.

While Martin Darveniza may have gone, his legacy in Fiji will continue to have an impact long into the future.

Feedback: John Ross is a Nadi-based marketing and advertising specialist with a long background in tourism. For feedback on this article, please email him: johnrossfiji@gmail.com

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