1st February 2017
Only in Fiji could the concept of holidaymakers pitching in to help build community projects while paying for the privilege succeed however Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort general manager Peter Hopgood has managed to do just that. A part-time resident of the Sunshine Coast, Hopgood created the community tourism project seven years ago and as improbable as it seems, the concept has really taken off.
In fact, the volunteer tourism concept has become so successful so quickly that other Outrigger locations are adopting it. Hawaii-based Outrigger resorts are now embracing the concept to help local communities. A revolution in how five-star resorts are operated within small communities in developing nations, projects are guided by a resort building team and are hand-picked in consultation with community leaders.
Every Tuesday and Thursday at the Outrigger resort, children and adults sign up for the project. Departing at 9am, the tour takes in the picturesque Coral Coast valley and allows guests to meet local children, school staff and visitors as well as enjoying lunch at the historical Tavuni Hill Tongan Fort. All in an effort to help complete vital community projects including kindergartens, bus shelters, community meeting bures, covered walkways, fences and more.
More than 2000 tourists, on average about 40 a week, have given up some of their valuable holiday time to work on the Fiji projects since 2009. Among them was Adelaide Crows AFL footballer Eddie Betts and his family, who were enjoying a low-key holiday at the resort early last year when they signed up for the adventure. So impressed were they with their experience that Betts convinced his teammates and their families to enjoy a holiday at the resort and take up the community project opportunity too.
Their work helped to make the kindergarten a reality much sooner than the community had expected. The kindergarten, which will house 20-30 students, was named in Betts’ honour and will help many children from the community begin their education. The players, coaches and families of the Adelaide Football Club all took home some really special memories from working on the project and have vowed to return next year.