Operating a resort through unchartered waters before, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic were key issues discussed during the Fiji National University’s (FNU), Dean’s Coffee with Leaders at the Daku Resort in Savusavu.
Organised by the College of Business, Hospitality and Tourism Studies (CBHTS), the event was moderated by College Dean, Professor Arun Elias and featured Daku Resort Director and Owner, John Rothnie-Jones as Chief Guest.
Rothnie-Jones was born and educated in the United Kingdom, and after graduating from Cambridge University, he established businesses in the advertising and media sector. In 1985, he decided to leave the United Kingdom and travelled to more than 80 countries, and during his venture he established businesses in five countries. He built a house in Fiji in 1990. In 2004, he bought Daku Resort and Estates.
He said border closures due to COVID-19 presented the resort with challenges and a tourism industry that came to a halt. However, he said, with the loyal support of the staff and a crisis strategic plan, the resort continued to operate on a small scale through the ‘Love our Locals’ campaign.
“Everyone was going through a tough time, as everyone was aware that we had closed our borders to tourists and the tourism sector was affected. We had very limited revenue coming in, we had to cut costs to survive and trim our sales, but we kept going,” he said.
“It was a very gratifying experience, and we established a reputation in the country, and Daku Resort was a popular brand in Fiji. Many Fijians wanted to make Daku Resort their destination; while some had been to the resort, some had not, this presented an opportune time for them to come,” Rothnie-Jones said.
“As a resort, we learned to navigate around things, as some of the things we did were new to us, and we ended up multitasking things from maintenance, housekeeping and looking after our guests, amongst other things.”
CBHTS Dean, Professor Arun Elias said FNU was grateful to have a hospitality industry veteran like Rothnie-Jones as the chief guest. The series was designed to inspire young minds and has taught students a lot.
“The third series of the Dean’s Coffee with Leaders was staged in the North for the staff and students of the northern division. We are pleased to have John to share his knowledge and experience with the audience especially talking from the businessman’s point of view,” he said.
“The series is created to achieve healthy industry and stakeholder engagement. Stakeholder engagement will help us proactively consider the needs and desires of our stakeholders and industry partners, and through this, we can foster connections, trust, confidence, and buy-in for FNU’s and the College’s key initiatives.”
“When done well, stakeholder engagement can mitigate potential risks and conflicts with stakeholder groups, including uncertainty, dissatisfaction, misalignment, disengagement, and resistance to change.
“The concept of Dean’s Coffee with Leaders is to invite leaders as guest speakers, have a conversation with them over a cup of coffee, and have staff and students learn through that conversation.”
The event was attended by the students and staff of FNU and the FNU Student Association members.