“It is a very simple philosophy—if you look after your staff, they will look after your guests,” explained Peter Hopgood, General Manager of Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort. In an interview with Hopgood, we discussed his experience managing the property since 2009, building a passionate and dedicated team, creating an authentic Fijian experience for guests, and much more.
Earlier this year, the 5-star Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort received 3 coveted honors at the annual ANZ Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards—Best Deluxe Resort, Best Visitor Dining Experience for its fine-dining restaurant Ivi, and the resort’s Executive Chef and Honorary President of the Fiji Chefs Association, Shailesh Naidu, was named the industry’s most outstanding Tourism Leader. In addition, Fiji’s Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, as well as the Minister for Education, recently voiced high-praise for Outrigger’s longstanding efforts to build and support a wide variety of education, health and other community projects—cementing Hopgood’s status as a local leader who recognizes the role and difference companies can make in uplifting the communities in which they operate. Taken together, Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort is one of most critically-acclaimed properties not only in Fiji, but around the world.
Tell me what attracted you to join Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort back in late 2009. Why was it the right moment and the right place?
Two things occurred to me when I went to Fiji to have a look at the property. The first was that I instantly fell in love with the Fijian people. Their genuine warmth and affection was overwhelming and I couldn’t wait to work with them. The second was that when I went to the resort for my interview, I was also captivated by the sound of the waves crashing on the outer reef.
Over the past several years, what surprised you the most about your experience managing the resort?
I am extremely proud of what the team has achieved at the resort. When I started, we employed 300 staff. Today, we employ more than 600. We’ve made a lot of changes over the years too, including the construction of two new restaurants, the introduction of a dedicated “adults only” swimming pool and bistro, and also the construction of a new wedding reception facility. We also introduced new services such as our talai butlers and our Mei Mei nanny service. We now employ 40 full-time nannies. The team has fully embraced these changes, trusting in the future. It has been a wonderful journey thus far and one that I am very honoured to be involved in.
Fijian hospitality, warmth and generosity at the hotel are as amazing as they are contagious. What's the secret to putting together such a committed team?
The secret is that there is no magic bullet to success. It takes hard work! If I were to pinpoint one aspect of how we built such a passionate team, it would be to engage with your staff and find out what they like, what their challenges are, and how best you can support them. Ultimately, it is a very simple philosophy—if you look after your staff, they will look after your guests, and in turn that will look after the investors in the resort.
In terms of design, atmosphere and furnishings, whether across the property generally or in the various suites, how have you made the experience as authentic as possible to where they are in the world?
Everywhere you go in the resort you will experience a truly authentic Fijian experience. Our furnishings are traditional Fijian palm wood, we have built traditional Fijian Bures, and my staff totally embrace the true “Bula” spirit. You will not pass by any of my team without receiving a heartfelt “Bula” greeting. We try our absolute best to introduce you to the culture, people and surrounding at the resort. This is Fijian hospitality at its finest.
As someone who is continually recognized as a leader in the community for a wide variety of socially-oriented projects tied to improving healthcare and education, what is the underlying motivating force for you to get involved at this level, and why is it so important for you as a company to get your hands dirty and pay attention in this way?
I truly believe that every person gets at least one opportunity in life to help those less fortunate than they are, and it is important that you embrace these opportunities. I feel blessed that I have been given the chance to live and work in Fiji. The work that my team undertakes at the resort is amazing, and they love engaging with their community and making a difference. My job is to provide guidance.
With respect to the kinds of projects we support, I love children, and to give these kids an opportunity to get a good education is extremely rewarding. Also, being involved in building the new maternity ward has been life-changing. As the manager, it’s my job to think not only of the bottom line, but also the bottom line of the community in which we all live and work. It’s a win-win when we all benefit.
For first-time visitors to Fiji, what kinds of activities or excursions might you recommend guests to truly experience the surrounding and to get a taste of local Fijian life, culture and custom?
Must do’s include a half-day cruise in a jet boat up the Sigatoka River—you get to see the real Fiji! You should definitely go to a local rugby game. I’d also recommend going to a local church service on Sunday to hear the most beautiful voices you’ll ever hear. And I encourage all of our guests to get out of the resort and become involved in one of our community tourism projects.