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Alex Wilson – A Man For All Seasons

  Meet Alex Wilson. Mr Wilson has trekked around the tourism world and also carried out some charity work for the late Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India. He has worked
17 Nov 2018 10:00
Alex Wilson – A Man For All Seasons
Plantation Island Resort general manager Alex Wilson. Photo: Charles Chambers

 

Meet Alex Wilson.

Mr Wilson has trekked around the tourism world and also carried out some charity work for the late Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India.

He has worked around Australia and amassed massive experience in the running of hotels.

He has returned to his country of birth, Fiji, to help Plantation Island Resort increase its already popularity.

As the general manager this includes introducing new programmes to get tourists to be more involved in.

About Mr Wilson and how he started

This is his story.

“I was born in Vatukoula as my father, Gabriel Wilson, who is from Dravuwalu Village,Totoya, in Lau worked as a geologist in the gold mines.

“My mother was Litia Piilua who was originally from Samoa and she had come with her father, who was a missionary and the rest of the family.”

Mr Wilson’s siblings have since returned to Fiji from New Zealand.

He attained primary school education at Vatukoula Convent School and Marist Primary School (better known as Marist Suva Street).

He left for Australia as a 19-year-old in 1979 and returned a few times to Fiji.

He returned to Australia and stayed with the late Stan Ritova and during this time the first coup in 1987 took place so he stayed on and was granted his permanent residency.

He then began his apprenticeship in Sydney at several hotels as a chef but later opted to transfer to the front office.

“If there is any regret in my career it would be working in the kitchen.”

His reason for leaving the kitchen was that because he was the only coloured chef in the kitchen and got more swears than any other from the head chef.

He did not want to name the hotel).

“Some days I would get home and say to himself – what am I doing in the kitchen?

“But with the racism those days I just copped it on the chin and next day I went back to work.

“I realised that I was the problem not the head chef because it all comes down to how you handle the problem.

“I could have retaliated but I did not and decided to leave the kitchen before I could do anything nasty.”

However Mr Wilson said one of his biggest likes while cooking was creativity.

“Here in Fiji you buy rourou (taro leaves) and a tin fish with chilly and onion and with that $5 purchase you can make a five star hotel dish.

“So I came out to the front of house and was made restaurant manager and became maître de and food and beverage manager– all this as a temporary worker.”

Mr Wilson was then sent to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea to train two Food and Beverage managers for conferencing.

“As much as I was training these people I did not admit that I was also learning.

“But one thing you could not take away from me was the passion to work as I could work 25 hours in 24 hours.

“That has brought me to the position I am in today.”

Mr Wilson said the passion to work by Fijians could never be matched in many parts of the world.

He became the acting hotel manager for the Holiday Inn in Darwin, Australia in 2002.

“We were going through a transition period and Bass Hotels and Six Continental came over and took over Southern Pacific Hotel Corporation (SPHC).

“It was an Australasian company and owned all the Park Royals properties including the old Suva and Nadi Travelodge.

“SPHC owned all the Travelodge hotels that was previously here, in New Zealand and one in Singapore.”

Work experience

Mr Wilson formed a group on LinkedIn of all workers of the same age group and who worked for SPHC.

SPHC was then taken over by another group before InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) took over.

“When this group took over a lot of us stayed on while others left because we felt we were going to do well at an international level because IHG was such a big group that had come out of Europe.

“I was later made Food and Beverage director for IHG in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, looking after a few Crown Plaza and Holiday Inn hotels.”

Mr Wilson was then selected in a group of six to carry out re-branding of Park Royal Plaza to Crown Plaza or InterContinental.

“So I did re-branding of the groups hotels in Adelaide, Canberra and left IHG because I was burnt out.”

“When you are re-branding hotels it is non-stop because you changing printing materials to font sizes, to re-branding of menus, shampoo, toilet paper and a whole of other stuff.

“So you are kept in the hotel for about three months and at the same time I was taking my wife and son who was just born at that time.

“I left and went to work for the Rydge Hotel in Sydney which was taken over by Stanford Hotels as Human Resource Manager and carried out the re-branding for and probably that’s why I was taken onboard.”

IHG lured him back to carry out the re-branding of their hotel in Townsville and later was asked to carry out the same work at three of their hotels in Darwin.

“After my daughter was born in Townsville I decided after the Darwin that I needed to have a rest and look after myself.”

“So they sent me to Port Moresby and took over as General Manager and then asked to return to Melbourne to carry out re-branding.”

Mr Wilson was then offered a job in Port Moresby to look after three hotels as regional manager.

“My wife, who is from Santiago, Chile, took a course to become a tour guide and I joined her to become a tour leader.”

His new found work saw him take groups as a trekker in the Himalayas, Pakistan, Tibet, China, Northern India and Bangladesh in the city of Dhaka and later took on this new job in South Africa and Kenya.

He later went to the Amazon, Peru and the Galapagos Islands.

“The only Fijian I met was a girl Wainibete and this was when I went to do some charity work for the late Mother Teresa in Calcutta.

“I remember taking all these kids to look for something to eat and met her and found out she was from Fiji.

“I left and did trekking in China, Vietnam, Thailand and Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia.

“In the same breath, I had friends who were pursuing careers to become general managers at different hotels.

“At the same time I was sleeping on rocks in China and eating fish in India with people I did not know.”

He left and came to work in a five star hotel, Grand Papua Hotel, in Port Moresby which was built by the Swire Group and later became general manager for five years.

Prior to this he also did some work on land issues for landowners with hotels on their land including re-investing and re-engineering of deals.

While in PNG he initiated a programme by taking street kids off the streets and gave them vegetable seedlings which they planted and the hotel bought.

Different programmes

Another programme was getting husbands who abused their wives working at the hotel to respect them.

“Eventually you would get husbands dropping their wives off at work and the beatings stopped.

Although he was hesitant to work in Fiji, he eventually decided to take up the job.

“All holidays he spent with his father in law in Chile.

“When he died, my wife said to me that our children did not know their connection in Fiji and by taking this job they would be able to re-connect.”

Mr Wilson has been at Plantation Island Resort for the past 11 months and in that time have got staff to plant their own vegetables.

He then realised that if the world was split into three planets, the Pacific has 40 million people.

“If you look at the world then, you would see that if people wanted to visit any place on he planet, it would be the Pacific because it is safe.

“It is because people living in most parts of the world and live so many stories above each other and trying to innovate how to escape this problem.”

Mr Wilson said he was told by someone in Dubai that the place to be was the Pacific.

“This is where the Government should play a major role here in Fiji.”

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s Presidency of COP23 prompted Mr Wilson to take up coral planting on the reefs outside Plantation Island Resort.

The resort has since employed two marine biologists who now work on this programme.

With a vision for the future in attracting more visitors, MrWilson has got the children who come with their parents on holidays to be involved in this programme.

“Once they do that, they would influence their parents’ decision on deciding where they would want to spend their holidays each year.”

He was also instrumental in cleaning up an area close to the resort where two barges of rubbish was collected.

A couple of retiring resort employees have also been have been helped by Mr Wilson to set up business on their land and which they could fall back on when they leave work.

These are just a number of projects taken up by Mr Wilson and engrained it in the staff and the surroundings.

Such is his passion for work that the welfare of his employees after retirement was of concern to him.

He wanted to do for the resort and its staff with the long term outlook being paramount..

Feedback:  charles.chambers@fijisun.com.fj



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