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Harnessing Local Talent Key to Pacific Destinations Fiji Success

An ambitious goal then. Now 21 years later it’s a business success story of harnessing local talents. Pacific Destinations Fiji directors and co-owners Lala and James Sowane, met and studied
24 Mar 2021 10:30
Harnessing Local Talent Key to Pacific Destinations Fiji Success
Pacific Destinations Fiji directors and co-owners James and Lala Sowane, Team Leader Kolora Mason and Lavenia.

An ambitious goal then.

Now 21 years later it’s a business success story of harnessing local talents.

Pacific Destinations Fiji directors and co-owners Lala and James Sowane, met and studied at Lincoln University, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Mrs Sowane graduated in 1995 with a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Accounting while her husband graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Tourism.

The couple were still in shock past Friday after being awarded the Visionary Award during the 23rd Annual ANZ Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards (ANZ FETA).

Pacific Destinations Fiji also scooped the Tour and Transport Operators award.

The 2019 Awards Presentation was held at the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa Denarau, Nadi.

Mr Sowane has a personal passion of encouraging and hopefully inspiring the iTaukei community to venture into business.

“We have employed locals since the inception of our company.”

For Mr Sowane, it’s a call to action: Become a player not a spectator.

 

Career choices
Mr Sowane in 1994 commenced his tourism career as a graduate trainee with the Fiji Visitors Bureau now Tourism Fiji.

He then climbed through the ranks to being appointed in 1998 as Regional Director New Zealand till mid 1999.

Mrs Sowane between 1995 to 1998 was a graduate accountant (Audit and Tax Services) at the then Price Waterhouse.

In October, 1999 the couple returned to Fiji as business partners to commence their journey of operating their own business, Pacific Destinations Fiji that started with four staff in a 40 square meter rented office space.

“I’ve always told Lala, right from my days in university, that my dream was always to show that we iTaukei can operate and succeed in business.”

“When I was at the Fiji Visitors Bureau, I was working out the possible career paths that if I continued to perform in my role I might be posted to other major markets such as Australia and the USA.”

“I was cautious though that by the time we are ready to start something we’d be getting on in age and in hindsight, it was the correct decision to make our move early when we were 28 and 29 years old respectively as managing a start up business requires a lot of energy and at times you are driven by naivety.”

“I had always sold the concept to Lala, seeing that with your accounting background with my sales and marketing background, we could do something.”

“And that’s how it all started.”

“So we made the decision to come back in 1999 much to a lot of people’s shock.”

“We were right in the middle of final stages of applying for permanent residency, we gave up the luxury of living in New Zealand to establish our business.”

“We entered a not only competitive sector but a sector with established players, and we have so much respect for Rosie Holidays in particular and Tour Managers.”

Both great companies whom we compete in good spirits with and we push each other to Excellence in our services.

“There were the big boys who were already established in the country, we were a small company trying to make a break in the sector.”

“So, for us, if anything that’s been huge for us and we are glad we took the risk and it’s been hard work.”

“We also take this opportunity to thank our international wholesaler and conference planner clients from around the world as well as our Fiji tourism industry partners for believing in our journey and services and gave us an opportunity to be a player in our tourism industry.”

“Lala and I have always told our kids that you don’t want to be old and then you are wishing that you tried something else, we don’t want them to have an if only reflection.”

“We want them to have a well, we gave it a shot reflection.”

Our constant message now to our children and team at the office is “don’t be a spectator in life – be a player”.

 

Pre-COVID-19
Prior to COVID-19, Pacific Destinations Fiji were servicing an average of 75,000 international visitors per annum from all of Fiji’s major tourism markets, with the support of 110-local staff.

“Despite the ongoing challenges and impact of COVID-19 on our business, we continue to remain positive.”

“And with our reduced team of eight staff on limited hours to manage our transport services to the Ministry of Health for repatriated Fijians.”

“We have done over 1000 repatriation transport services over the past 12months).”

“Lala and I have maintained our focus on re-shaping our business for the “new normal” when international borders eventually reopen and this has been made possible by the great support of our bank, ANZ Bank.”

 

Pacific Destinations Fiji directors and co-owners James and Lala Sowane.

Pacific Destinations Fiji directors and co-owners James and Lala Sowane.

Pacific Destinations Team
The business partners are extremely proud of their 110 (pre- Covid) young and dynamic talented team members who consistently strived towards “our promise to Deliver Unique and Memorable

Experiences to our visitors whom we service and look after in Fiji”.

“We are also proud that our team is 100 per cent Fijian citizens who are committed to our journey, some who have been with us from day one.”

“Our journey challenges our team members to be proud of who they are and their standing in their family, community and as a member of our team.”

“Our journey encourages every team member to push the boundaries of their ability and subsequent achievements, and in doing so that they will be an example and inspiration to their families and community.”

“Our journey encourages our team to be courageous in not conforming to societal stigmas that are all too common in Fiji so that they push themselves to strive for their dreams and aspirations.”

“Our journey has broken monopolies in our industry.”

“Our journey values professional work ethic through integrity above all else.”

“Our journey and passion is 100 per cent committed to a Fiji that we love and believe in.”

“We do hope that our achievements in business over the past 21 years will inspire aspiring iTaukei entrepreneurs to believe in themselves and have a go at business.”

 

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj



Five Square diwali dhamaka 2021


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