Keeping busy

Initial renovation of existing Maui Palms by former hotel staff members. Picture: SUPPLIED

MAUI Palms boutique beachfront hotel and the tourism industry on the Coral Coast were deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Christine Badia, the director of Maui Palms, said as the borders closed so did their hotel doors.

However Ms Badia said initially there was hope that a bubble may be created as early as July which prompted them to turn to their long serving hotel staff, offering them new roles in renovating the hotel so that by July Maui Palms would look brand new.

“It quickly became apparent that tourism was unlikely to resume and at the same time our staff had shown such willingness and competence in their new roles that we contemplated going ahead with expansion plans that we had in the pipeline,” she said.

The company realised that travel and management of travel would take some serious time to be restored so they turned their focus on bringing long-term goals they had previously worked on into motion during this COVID-19 downtime.

“We felt we had an obligation to give back to our staff and keep staff working in some capacity and aid other contractors and unemployed local individuals when needed with work to give them the capacity to be able to provide for their families who are based on the Coral Coast which was hit very hard by the sudden halt of tourism,” she said.

Ms Badia and the team from the resort embarked on undertaking developing a block she owns less than 20 metres from her existing award winning boutique resort Maui Palms to extend her existing business.

“We have endeavoured to employ local staff wherever we could. We have three of our existing chefs still working in construction. As the only source of new employment in the area, we have had multiple hotel workers and construction workers showing up on site asking for work. Sadly we were unable to employ everyone. Many of our staff were previous employees from major resorts, staff from procurement, activities and landscaping.

“Still not knowing how long borders will remain closed we at least will have some progress and furthered development to show for that downtime and feel very proud that our loyal long-term staff are able to keep providing for their families during this difficult time through our furthered expansion of Maui Palms which we hope will be finished in time for the reopening of borders. We look forward to when a tourist asks one our staff, what did you do during the pandemic, and they point outside the window at the new development and say ‘I made that’.”

According to Ms Badia the pro-active measure the Fiji Government had put in place with a no nonsense, go hard-go early approach to keep COVID away from potential uncontrollable community transmissions with immediate borders up and lockdown of Lautoka and Suva when needed was definitely in place and proved to be very effective.

She said those government decisions and ongoing economic/development incentives rolled out during the pandemic by the government to try stimulate the crippled economy gave them confidence to take a breath and look at their long-term options investment wise in Fiji during one of the most difficult times ever, economically globally which in itself was scary and a risk but felt necessary on so many different levels especially on the humanitarian side of things.

“A lot of people ask me what I think 2021 holds and I think the success of the vaccine is key as is the rapid distribution of it which is starting in Australia and with the great relationship and brotherhood Australia and NZ have continually shown towards Fiji and each other on many fronts including making the undertaking to get vaccines to Fiji I would hope by end of 2021 a fluid Pacific bubble would be welcomed news for all.”

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