Island News

Selling Fiji from Port Denarau is personal for Buli

Written By : EMOSI LASAQA. Those who have observed how cruiser liner visitors are welcomed at Port Denarau, Nadi will without doubt admire how ancient Fiji comes to life through
12 Sep 2009 12:00

image Written By : EMOSI LASAQA. Those who have observed how cruiser liner visitors are welcomed at Port Denarau, Nadi will without doubt admire how ancient Fiji comes to life through the tales of a man.
Storyteller Buli Ratu enthralls visitors when he weaves his tales of Fiji a thousand years ago.
His tales even feature the developments over the years and they instantly romance the listener who always turns up for another dose.
But its more than just marketing for the eloquent storyteller – it’s personal.
For Buli Ratu, the passion for the tourism industry is its marketing to every single person he meets.
“Lots of visitors I’ve met have expressed their disappointment in how Fiji was portrayed to them by their media,” Buli said.
“All of us in Nadi have a job to do and that is to draw them back
“We are selling Fiji from here. It’s a personal thing for me,” he added.
Buli does this through stories, food and wine, literature, music, poetry, and painting, helping to broaden the image, understanding and appeal of the country around the world.
Buli Ratu, a name famous for many songs that hit the local airwave in the early 90s and the brain behind reggae band-Freedom Exile.
Originally from the chiefly village of Narewa in Nadi, Bulivou Vosawaca Sigatabulevu Ratu was born in Suva and grew up in Tamavua.
Her mother is from Naqarani Village in Noco, Rewa where he gets his speech prowess.
Ask anyone you come across at Port Denarau Marina in Nadi if they knew him and most likely they will tell you that the guy is the most talkative on the whole island.
Buli started singing way back in 1974 when he was studying engineering at the Fiji Institute of Technology.
He later joined the likes of Timoci Gucake, the late great Sakiusa Bulicokocko, Saimoni Vuatalevu and the king of ‘Vude’ himself Seru Serevi at the Southern Cross in Suva.
His first brush with the hospitality and tourism happened in 1978 when the Region Hotel was opened in Nadi where he worked as a room service waiter.
“The opportunity opens my eyes on the various opening in the hospitality industry,” Buli said.
“My father always wanted me to become an engineer but the work was sweet so there was no more time for study.
“I instead found time out to carry out gigs around hotels in Nadi.
“I loved music since I was a kid and I’ve done it for free when I first started earlier on.
“It took me to many places and introduced me to many people. Most are still my friends,” he said.
“I think that the music business as we know it is splintering into a million shards,” and it is being built up into something new right before our eyes.
Buli recorded nine albums with South Pacific Recording and most of his songs were a hit on the local airwaves.
After the successful stint in the local music industry which was brought down by piracy, singer Buli decided to change.
The 45 year old is currently the Entertainment Director at Port Denarau, a job that he took out for the passion of it.
He has penned an ode to turn the clock back on the tourism industry- an industry which is a symbol of national hospitality.
It was called Bula Fiji under the title Paradise- a collection of music that shows his love for the industry over the last 20 years.
“The reasons for leading a change effort are typically very simple. I want to do it, I need to do it, or I have to do it.
“The word Paradise summarises the way I look at this land.”
“It is also the way most people still remember Fiji no matter what has happened and will happen,” the 45 year old said.
Mr Ratu said consumers don’t turn to businesses during trying times, but they do turn to people.
“That is why all property owner in the country need to come together and market Fiji as one product. Gone are the days where they stand for themselves
“Fiji is a product on its own, the culture, tradition, its flora and fauna is one of the most authentic and unique in the world,” said Mr Ratu who is calling Port Denarau his second home.
Buli said his job varies but to extend the world’s knowledge of Fiji overseas and increase international visitors to the country is major aim.
“Creating a positive, lasting change is not always as easy.
“What I’m trying to create is a different light represents Fiji as a country, rather than merely a holiday destination.
“This approach is unique and a major shift away from traditional tourism marketing and will help differentiate Fiji from its competitors.
“It’s rooted in our culture and how Fijians are called Fijians-our resilient sprit that can not be found any where else in the world,” Buli said.
He said he managed different entertainment groups from traditional to Polynesian and four piece band to the famous ‘sigi drigi’-Fijian style.
“Different personal perspectives are brought to life in the of Port Denarau.
“Most of them have been in the tourism industry for many years.
“Personalities gave personal views of Fiji and highlight new aspects of the country that are not well-known overseas”
Buli said in today’s changing world, people were looking for a travel experience that provides an opportunity to explore a wide variety of physical, emotional and intellectual pursuits.
He believes that the centre, often called the Heart of Denarau, Spirit of Fiji is the answer to those requirements
Port Denarau offers over 10,000. square meters of retail shopping and amazing cultural experience. These range from handicraft vendors to diverse dining options and other premium retailers and services.
Buli said people want more than just time off – holidays are seen as an opportunity for self development and the new facilities at the port taps into this. He also works in collaboration with Destination Fiji in providing tours around the country.

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