SUNBIZ

Weathering the Storm – Aquarius On The Beach

A few local hotels like Aquarius On The Beach have not closed during this crisis, but have had to rely on sacrifice and creativity to stay open.
10 May 2020 13:16
Weathering the Storm – Aquarius On The Beach

While all industries and businesses in Fiji have been affected by the ongoing COVID-19 emergency, possibly the hardest hit has been the tourism industry.

Many larger hotels who have overseas ownership are more protected by having well-funded corporations behind them.

But smaller, locally-owned tourism businesses don’t have that safety net.

Aquarius On The Beach

A few local hotels like Aquarius On The Beach have not closed during this crisis, but have had to rely on sacrifice and creativity to stay open.

They’ve also been relying on local travellers to help them through this crisis.

“Our bookings are down more than 90 per cent,”

“Even though we’re a small hotel, when you only have one or two guests a night, it’s hard to even break even.” said hotel manager Shalini Mohammed.

“Reduced hours for staff were an unfortunate reality for the hotel, with many staff working only two days a week.

“Tropical Cyclone Harold didn’t help.

Although Nadi was spared the brunt of the damage, Aquarius is a beachfront hotel, and the entire beachfront vanished in 24 hours during the storm.

“We had to hire a bulldozer to move sand back up onto our beachfront,” said Ms Mohammed.

“A huge cleanup also had to be done, with a team of staff and even Ms Mohammed’s husband helping out to get the hotel back to a high standard as quickly as possible.

“But we were up and running right away and serving the few guests we had.”

Aquarius On the Beach, and many other Fijian hotels, are looking to the local market to help get them through the economic downturn.

New menus

The hotel introduced a special takeaway menu,offering pizzas and other takeaway food to keep their kitchen staff working and generate some income.

Room specials

As stay at home restrictions are relaxed and more local people feel safe to move around again, the current room specials on offer are also attracting people to take advantage of the situation.

And of course, Nadi’s sunnier weather is also a draw.

The hotel also saw that it had to offer something unique.

‘Pay Now, Stay Later’

A “Pay Now, Stay Later,” concept was introduced, giving locals a 50 per cent discount on rooms if they paid before May 31 even if they stayed any time before September.

The special offer seems to be working.

“We see that the number of bookings is picking up,” said Ms Mohammed.

“And we’re heavily discounting our restaurant food and drinks in the bar,” she added. She and her team of hotel workers are optimistic that local people are keen to enjoy short stays in hotels like hers and take advantage of huge discounts.

Staff make sacrifices

The staff at Aquarius have adapted to the sacrifices they’ve had to make.

“One of the maintenance workers has switched to night watchman, while those in the food and beverage department have also had to take a turn at housekeeping, just to keep salary costs down.

“We know this is a hard time for the hotel,” said Vilimoni Namuatiqe, the head of the Food and Beverage department.

“We’re doing what we can to help the hotel, because we know that our job is on the line.

“This hotel is like our home, we have to protect it.”

It may be months before overseas travelers once again return in numbers to Fiji.

In the meantime, tourism-based local businesses like Aquarius On The Beach are relying on the fact that locals are desperate to venture out after staying home, being locked down and told to stay in place.

For tourism businesses, it’s a way to get staff working again and begin the process of rebuilding the tourism industry.

It’s also a great opportunity for local people to enjoy special rates that they may never see again.

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

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