An Iconic Symbol of Fiji

THERE are many reasons to visit the Capital City and with vast improvements across most sectors of the economy, Suva has become one of the busiest business hubs around.

Apart from boasting a thriving and bustling trading environment, Suva is most famous for its iconic buildings, structures and public parks.

From the age-old Government Buildings to Albert Park, Thurston Gardens and Fiji’s very own White House aka Government House on a hill overlooking the Suva bay — a stopover at the Capital City is a must for visitors and tourists.

During the 4th Fiji Business Forum, Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism Faiyaz Koya said the one thing that most tourists wanted to do was visit the Capital City.

“These are high-spending tourists who want to come. The ministry is looking at turning Suva into ‘Destination Suva’ and we are inviting all businesses to take a little bit more civic pride in achieving this,” he said.

“Shortly we will be attending a conference in Tahiti and most of the discussions will be on the cruise ship industry.

“Unfortunately Vanuatu just had a cyclone and lost quite a lot but we are the benefactors of all this. It may not be a nice thing to say but there is a huge interest in turning Suva into ‘Destination Suva’ so the cruise industry is such a vital part of the tourism industry.”

Perhaps one of Suva’s most attractive assets is the Grand Pacific Hotel, known fondly by many as the country’s “grand old lady”.

Since opening its doors last year, the hotel has employed hundreds of people and played host to high-calibre events.

New general manager Peter Gee, an experienced Australian hotelier, said the GPH was the pride of Suva, a symbol of Fiji and an icon of the South Pacific.

In terms of sharing the ministry’s vision of creating “Destination Suva”, Mr Gee said there were many anchor landmarks in the Capital City that needed to be at the forefront of that concept.

He said landmarks such as Government House, Fiji Museum, Government Buildings, Albert Park, Suva Municipal Market were important to the country’s heritage.

“For destination marketing, you need to bring all those elements together.

“Suva has many of the right ingredients but to do that effectively, you need to step back and look at it with different eyes — this is always a good thing when you first arrive at a destination,” he said.

Since taking over management of the hotel about five weeks ago, Mr Gee has made a number of noticeable changes including staff uniforms that aimed to instill pride and a sense of appreciation among staff members, stakeholders and Fijians.

“GPH is a very special hotel because it has some things that are very unusual and very rare. It has all this history from 1914, which has evolved.

“It went into decline and closed at one point but it’s just tremendous that this architecture has been restored so well. It is beautiful,” Mr Gee said.

“The owners have done such a good job in restoring this hotel to its original grandeur. It’s really great architectural style.

“With this restoration we then have the opportunity to tie this history with the warmth of the Fijian people, with the culture of Fiji, both heritage and contemporary culture and this becomes a very powerful attraction.

“What we have to do now is package this altogether. We haven’t done this very well in the past so we’ve got some work to do.”

GPH operations

The hotel, according to Mr Gee, had improved its occupancy rate in the past 2-3 months. However, he said, it would take some time for the word to get out about Suva’s iconic hotel.

“Occupancy is very good. It’s taking a long time but then it always is. Unless you have millions of dollars to spend, how does the rest of the world know there is a new hotel in Suva?

“They don’t. If you look at hotels in big chains, they spend millions of dollars in marketing so that takes time,” Mr Gee said.

While some aspects and strategies of the hotel operations before he took over were questionable, Mr Gee had made it a priority to assess those operations to find the right balance between maintaining a sustainable hotel operation and providing positive returns for investors and stakeholders.

“I think some of our strategies weren’t that good. The pricing was wrong. Some things were too expensive, some things were too cheap so I am in the process of redoing it all. Some changes need to be taken step by step,” he said.

“It’s a matter of looking, assessing and getting the right balance. We are running a business and we have a duty to provide returns to National Superannuation Fund of Papua New Guinea and FNPF.”

In terms of competition, Mr Gee said GPH complemented other resorts and hotels in Fiji.

He said the hotel occupied a special position because they combined a business hotel in a resort setting in Suva.