Obituary : Celebrating The Life Of The Late Robin Mercer MBE

Josaia “JR” Rayawa is the co-general manager of Koro Sun Resort and Rainforest Spa, and has a long involvement in tourism travel.     Koro Sun Resort was the venue
26 Jul 2016 08:43
Obituary : Celebrating The Life Of The Late  Robin Mercer MBE

Josaia “JR” Rayawa is the co-general manager of Koro Sun Resort and Rainforest Spa, and has a long involvement in tourism travel.



Koro Sun Resort was the venue of the celebration of the life of renowned tourism icon, the late Robin Mercer, (MBE), as members of his family, wife Lynette and son, Richard, helped celebrate his life, along with many of their friends on Saturday night.

Mr Mercer had passed away in Brisbane on May 29, 2016, at the age of 79, after a short illness. His son, Richard thought it appropriate to organise a wake in his honour at Koro Sun Resort, where it all began for the Mercers, some 48 years ago.

The Saturday night celebration was attended by well known tourism personalities. They included the very influential former chairman of Air Pacific, Gerald Barrack, Tony Philp Snr, renowned businessman and tourism entrepreneur and his wife, Lydia.  Amongst them, were specially invited well known Savusavu families and personalities, local businessmen, not to mention, key village elders from Vivili and Waivunia.

The evening was made even more special by the presence of Waivunia villagers who presented a rousing cultural meke performance in his honour.  In a moving speech at the event, Richard Mercer shared how Waivunia village has always felt like a special place for his Dad and for him personally, having been raised in these parts. He said: “It was in Waivunia where I learnt so much about Fijian village craft and about traditional living as well as the language.”

Guests at Koro Sun Resort were equally impressed and felt privileged to have been part of this celebration.  Resort co-general manager, Margaret Rayawa said: “A good number of our guests were astounded to find out about the colourful history of Koro Sun Resort going back to 1968.

“It also reminded me that we need to document well the history of the resort as and when it was started by the Mercers, back then.”

Mr Mercer has been described by his peers in Vanua Levu as the pioneer of tourism in Vanua Levu. He established the Kon Tiki resort, now known as the Koro Sun Resort, back in 1968. It was a two bure, farm-type concept, then.

In addition to running the resort, Lynette Mercer also remembers running a programme at Kon Tiki Resort for American Peace Corp volunteers where they were trained and taught about Fijian traditional culture and protocols prior to being sent out to the villages around Cakaudrove.

Resort managing director Jack Young shared a note that all that is Koro Sun Resort today, in terms of its pristine environment and botanical setting is credited to Mr Mercer.

He said: “I have always known Robin to be someone passionate about the environment, passionate about the preservation of traditional culture and I have tried to continue this legacy of his, as best I can.”

Mr Mercer’s extensive influence saw him also run the Namale Resort after his help was sought personally by the then directors of Namale.

This was characteristic of his nature and there are many tourism operators back in the late 1970s to 1980s who would testify gratefully for the help and support Mr Mercer had always extended freely.

Mr Mercer always had a genuine concern for the local people and he has been credited for making special effort in organising orientation visits for Savusavu village elders to experience what tourism was all about on mainland Viti Levu.

In his capacity as chairman of the Fiji Visitors Bureau, he sought the assistance of the Fiji Hoteliers on Viti Levu to host the villagers and to give them an impression of what tourism could do for Savusavu, if the people and the operators worked together.

Mr Mercer spoke very passionately about the importance of sustaining the culture of the ‘Vanua’.

At a Tourism convention in the 1980s, he said: “I feel strongly about the need for traditional dressings to be presented well at all  times to ensure that the Fijian culture is not regarded as cheap and unwholesome.”

As chairman of the National Trust for Fiji Board in the early 1980s, Mr Mercer was instrumental in ensuring the launch of a survey and stabilisation of the iguana population on Yadua Tabu and ensure the interests of the people of Yadua, the traditional owners of the island were respected. As a result, the island was declared a nature reserve.

As president of the Copra Producers Association, he was also very involved in the review of the Copra industry in 1983 where a formula was being pursued for adoption to strengthen the confidence of copra producers in the future of the copra industry.

He served on many boards including the airlines, town councils and many other Government statutory boards.  For his service to Fiji, Mr Mercer was awarded an MBE in 1982.

Not many people today fully appreciate the influential roles Mr Mercer took on voluntarily to help with Fiji’s fairly young and growing economy back in the early 1980s.

This man also deserves some official recognition by the tourism industry, an industry he served truly with his heart and soul.

It is pleasing though to learn that there are still many here in Savusavu who appreciate and love this gentleman and how his role and influence meant to so many families of Savusavu.

A Waivunia elder put it rather succinctly, “Robin was a true Kai Viti”.

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