Eco-Resort Benefits Navunikabi Villagers


A resort in the interior of Namosi Province was re-opened by Minister for Commerce, Trade, Transport, and Tourism Faiyaz Koya earlier this week.

Faced with the uncertainty of foreclosure and the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Namosi Eco-Retreat hung in the balance and owner Daniele Sovatabua contemplated a bleak future with the demise of his dream forged 20 years ago.

That was until he stumbled upon the Integrated Human Resources Development Program (IHRDP) and the various assistance available, he can tap on to rejuvenate his dying business. 

After a few meetings with officials and with the necessary paperwork, Mr Sovatabua’s dream was given a new lease of life when the IHRDP provided $24,000 to revive and kickstart his operations. 

Speaking in his Namosi dialect, Mr Sovatabua said his vision was to have a resort in his village in Navunikabi, Namosi, and to utilise his mataqali land. 

“I felt that I have to give something back to my village and the idea of an eco-resort was the one idea that stuck with me given the natural beauty of my province,” he said. 

“The idea was also to bring something to my village that will also benefit our people and allow them to earn from and I am glad that over the years it was exactly what was happening when COVID-19 came along.” 

The pandemic, Mr Sovatabua explained, brought difficulties for his business and the loss was something he did not anticipate but with the opening of the border his hope was restored. 

“I looked around for assistance and the Government stepped in in the form of the IHRDP and I will be forever grateful for the timely assistance which I am now confident will enable growth for my business.” 

“My greatest asset is my fellow villagers who provided immense assistance in the construction of the bures and renovation of existing ones which were priceless,” Mr Sovatabua said. 

He adds that the assistance by Government was motivation and encourages resource owners in rural settings to venture into small micro-enterprises and establish a business of their own. 

Now with 10 bures and a steady influx of visitors, there was never a dull day at the Namosi Eco-Retreat.

Villager Mere Corokobati was one of the grateful villagers who has felt the benefits of having such a business close to her village. 

“We are far from town, but we also have our needs to tend to and when the need arises, we always approach Mr Sovatabua who never fails to assist us through various paid chores,” Ms Corokobati said. 

“Many a time our obligations have been met with proceeds from our work at the eco-retreat and that is one major advantage for us villagers of Navunikabi and then there is the entertainment part where we the villagers provide for guests.” 

She added that unlike other such facilities in other parts of Fiji, the Namosi Eco-Retreat allows interaction between guests and villagers and these meetings are educational for many of them. 

“At first there was a culture shock as the attire of some of the guests was quite an eye-opener, especially for the young ones but over time, they have got used to it.”

Interestingly, she said, that the interaction between children and guests has in an unexpected way improved the English language of the children of Navunikabi who frequent the eco-retreat.

Fellow villager, Kusitatino Matakibau, echoed similar sentiments and praised the foresight of Mr Sovatabua for bringing such a business to his village. 

“For us, the landowners we have seen its benefit as Mr Sovatabua is not only utilising our mataqali land, but he had the wisdom to lease it to ensure that the return comes back to the Mataqali Nabukebuke,” Mr Matakibau said. 

“We have now noted an increase in visitors both local and from overseas and the trickle-down effect is felt by everyone in the village especially the women and youths of the village who in one way or the other have some work to do at the eco-retreat on any given day.”

With the opening of the borders and the steady increase in tourist arrivals, the Namosi Eco-Retreat was set to soar to greater heights.

From January this year, the country recovered about 60 per cent of the pre-existing visitor arrivals meaning that 70 per cent of the visitor arrival target has been achieved which was about 55 per cent of the 2019 arrivals.
The tourism earnings for the first half of the year stood at about $446 million.