SUNBIZ

Tracing Hopgood’s Time in Fiji

Peter Hopgood, the Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort general manager, is set to va­cate his position on July 16. In his eight years as GM, Mr Hopgood has taken the five
28 Apr 2018 11:00
Tracing Hopgood’s Time in Fiji
Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort general manager Peter Hopgood at his office yesterday. Photo: WAISEA NASOKIA

Peter Hopgood, the Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort general manager, is set to va­cate his position on July 16.

In his eight years as GM, Mr Hopgood has taken the five star property to new heights, making it one of the country’s most renowned holiday destinations.

Mr Hopgood has had 24 years of experience in the hotel industry.

Mr Hopgood has been general manager of eight resorts and hotels including the luxury, heritage listed, Grand Hotel Melbourne and the 1000-room Hamilton Island Resort in Queensland, Australia.

Mr Hopgood shared his experience with SunBiz this week.

Here are excerpts:

“As the Chairman of the Coral Coast Chap­ter I have been privileged to have been given the opportunity to be Chairman of the Coral Coast chapter of the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association for the past eight years.

 

“Over these years we have been able to pro­mote the Coral Coast as Fiji’s “number one” tourism destination. We have also been able to complete some major projects in our com­munity.

“The most satisfying project that has had the biggest impact on our community was the opening of the Maternity Ward at the Si­gatoka District Hospital by the Prime Minis­ter on the January 21, 2015. This has made an enormous difference to the womenfolk in our province.”

Some projects: Conua School

“After visiting a number of schools, our driver suggested that we visit one of the old­est schools in the district which was located up the Sigatoka Valley, which was called the Conua District Primary School.

“Our initial trip to the school was in an old Camry and I think we bottomed out over a dozen times. In fact, on a number of occa­sions we almost turned back as the road was so rough.

“On arriving at the school, we met Ms Finau, the Head Teacher of the school. Ms. Finau was like an ‘Angel’. Her love for her students was clearly apparent and by using her own mobile phone and her laptop she connected her school to the world.

“Brandy and I looked at each other and agreed that this was where we would start to assist the community.” Brandy is Mr Hop­good’s partner.

“At the time of our first visit the school had not been painted in years. There was a large tree poking through one of the classrooms and a large part of the school was in disre­pair,” he said.

“What struck both Brandy and I was that whilst the school was rundown, the warmth, happiness and joy of the school children was overwhelming.”

2010

“Our first project was very simple – We con­structed a bus shelter.”

2011

“The bus shelter needed to be connected to the school, so we constructed undercover walkways from the school to the bus shelter.”

2012

“We continued to build more walkways con­necting the classrooms to each other and also the classrooms to the bathrooms. In was in 2012 that we met some wonderful guests, Jonathan and Erin McGill from Victoria. For the next 6 years through their charity organi­zation All4Fiji, Jonathan and Erin have pro­vided enormous financial support.”

2013

“We were contacted by representatives of the Newport Junior Rugby Club in Sydney who asked if they could join us on our com­munity project.

“We decided to repair the roof on the school and then re-paint the whole school. The out­come was amazing and the school looked brand new.”

2014

“The players and fathers from the New­port School came back for another visit and this year we constructed a fence around the school to keep out the feral animals and we also upgraded the school bathrooms.”

2015

“Early in the year Kini Sarai, our Activi­ties Manager and myself met with all of the chiefs at the community bure (hall) at Conua School. They presented me with a Tabua along with a lot of other gifts to thank the re­sort for our contribution to the school.

“Whilst we were undertaking this Talanoa session, the skies opened up and water flowed into the old shed, where the meeting was tak­ing place. I leaned across to Kini and said to him I think they need a new meeting Bure (Hall).

“This idea stayed with me for many weeks but I did not know how to fund it. Due to the growing interest in our projects from guests and groups like the Newport Rugby Club, we came up with the idea of ‘community tour­ism’.

“The idea actually came to me at 2.00am in the morning after a nice bottle of red!

“The concept was very simple – invite our guests to come and work on the construction of our meeting Bure as a day Community Tourism Project excursion and charge them to do so.

“We decided to charge $100 for adults and $60 for children which also included lunch and a visit to the historic Tavuni Hill site on the way back to the resort. It proved to be very popular and this allowed us to build the Meet­ing Bure.

“Once again, we were joined by the fathers and sons from the Newport Rugby Club and their contribution was invaluable. In the end it cost $200,000 and was completed in Novem­ber 2015.

“The meeting bure could accommodate 150 people and was also built to resist winds from a category 5 cyclone. The opening ceremony was a gala affair with Outrigger’s regional CEO at the time attending from Phuket and the Minister for Tourism, the honorable Mr. Koya also present.

“At the conclusion of the event I was ap­proached by a young Fijian lady who she showed me her existing Kindergarten. It was so small that you could fit only 10 children in the room.

“We had our next project: the construction of a brand-new Kindergarten.

“My other great memories of 2015 were the children of one of our guest families at the resort, Cassie and Chris Stoken. The whole family came and worked on the Meeting Bure project and after their visit Cassie and Chris asked their parents if they could raise money for the Conua School.

“They ended up raising over AUD$1,500 and these funds were utilized to open a brand-new computer lab at the school which included 6 new laptops. We opened the computer lab at the same time as the meeting Bure – It was a wonderful surprise for Ms Finau.”

2016

“Our main community tourism project this year was to build a new kindergarten which could accommodate 40 children.

“Once again, we utilised the generosity and hard work of our guests and the kindergarten was completed in November 2016.

“Along the way we had many surprises.

“One of our guests, Jennifer McDaniel, who was visiting the resort from the United States, really immersed herself into the school. She had only recently lost her husband and she wanted to make a contribution to the school.

“Because her late husband loved literacy and reading, Jennifer came up with the idea of building a school library. The library was also completed in November and was official­ly opened by the Minister for Education Mr. Mahendra Reddy.

“Whilst we were building the kindergarten a very famous AFL player, Eddie Betts from the Adelaide Crows Club in Australia, advised us that he would be coming back for another visit to the resort.

“The previous year Eddie and his family had worked on the Meeting Bure project. This time Ed brought a large number of Adelaide Crows players with their families to work on the project. In the end the kindergarten was named the Eddie Betts kindergarten.”

2017

“To be honest we thought our work was com­pleted at Conua School and we were looking at building a kindergarten and library at an­other school.

“However, early in the year I was approached by the Head Teacher and he advised me that he had a ‘very big problem.’

“When Brandy and I first visited the school in 2010 the school attendance was 55 students.

“The enrolment in 2017 (including kinder­garten children) exceeded 150. Immediately I understood his dilemma as they did not have enough classrooms to accommodate the chil­dren.

“Our project for 2017 was to build two new classrooms that could each accommodate 40 students. Once again, we utilised the generos­ity and hard work of our guests to build the classrooms.

“They took over 9 months to complete and they were officially opened by the Attorney General and Minister for the Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

“What is important to note is that our efforts to support the community were not all one way.

“We have a policy that we only help those that help themselves. On each project the old boys from the Conua School raised over $10,000 through fundraising to assist with the costs of construction.

“The young men from the local villages also assisted with laboring on the construction sites.”

2018

“Once we had completed the opening of the classrooms in 2017, I was once again ap­proached by the head teacher from the school.

“Now that he had new classrooms, he need­ed new teachers. To attract new teachers, he needed accommodation for the teachers.

“Our project for 2018 is to build two new teachers’ houses. Construction started in January 2018 and at the time of writing the new houses are one third completed. They will be finished later this year.”

Success:

“I truly believe that creating a school en­vironment that encourages the students to come to school has been our greatest achieve­ment.

“When we first came to the school in 2010, the school pass rate was 35 per cent. In 2017 the students achieved a pass rate of 87 per cent at the end of year school exams. That pretty well sums it up.

Sigatoka District Hospital

“One of my greatest challenges, which also became one of our greatest achievements, was the construction of a new maternity ward at the Sigatoka District Hospital.

“The hospital had been very well supported by the Coral Coast Hotel and Tourism Asso­ciation over many years. Previously the asso­ciation had been involved in the construction of an Accident and Emergency ward.

“I was surprised when I arrived in Fiji in 2009 to learn that the hospital did not have a Maternity Ward.

“All of the women had to chose between go­ing to Lautoka or Suva – quite a distance to travel – to have their babies or have the baby in the village. Unfortunately, the mortality rate was quite high.

“In March 2010, I was elected as the Chair­man of the Coral Coast chapter of the Fiji Ho­tel and Tourism Association (FHTA). Once elected, I got together with all of the other General Managers of resorts on the Coral Coast and put together a plan to raise money to build a new maternity ward.

“Over a period of 9 month’s we raised over $300,000. Later that year myself and the Re­gional Health Supervisor visited Suva and met with the Health Minister.

“As many people have said, in Fiji you need to be patient. It took us 5 years to build the maternity ward, but I was delighted when on the January 21 2015, the Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, opened up our new ma­ternity ward. It is truly a wonderful facility.

“These days it is extremely busy with on av­erage 3 to 7 babies born at the maternity ward every day.

“Over the years we have also completed up­grades of the Women’s ward, Out-patients, kitchen, built a new medivac helipad facility and this year we are undertaking further up­grades to the operating theatre.

“In 2016 we purchased a new eye scanner valued at over $70,000 for the Eye Clinic. This is now used to detect the onset of diabetes, a major health issue to the people of Fiji.

“One of our great relationships over the years has been with Benevolent Mission In­ternational, who have been coming to Fiji and staying at the resort for the past 5 years.

“Every year these compassionate special­ists, led by Downey Price and Julie Bronan, come out from Texas in the United States to undertake sight saving operations and con­sultations with the people of Nadroga.

“Each year they conduct over 800 consulta­tions and restore sight to over 80 locals. My team at Outrigger provides their accommoda­tion and meals during their stay.

“Our goal in 2018 is to build a new Operating theatre. This will allow for visiting surgeons to undertake some much-needed operations in our local hospital.”

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