Fiji Times

SUVA, Fiji (March 29, 2009) – Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama's trip to India is no doubt irking Canberra and Wellington. But it's good for the country. We can gain from strengthening our ties with this Asian superpower. The sanctions Australia and New Zealand imposed after Commodore Bainimarama's 2006 coup put new emphasis on this. As a result the interim Prime Minister is visiting the modern Batra Hospital and Medical Research Centre in New Delhi. Access to Indian health expertise is just one example of what can be developed. We already have long historical and cultural links with India. Some of our people have close emotional and family ties. All this gives us a special connection with a nation that is no longer just an Asian economic superpower. India increasingly is a major player on the global stage. Yet we need to do much more to build on this connection.

We need to focus more, as we once did, on the people to people connections. We need especially to expand the economic and development connections. If Commodore Bainimarama can achieve this it would be an international story of which we can all be proud. Rydges, Teachers add up to win, win Drive along the Queens Road near Korotogo and you will see the sign. Rydges Hideaway Resort, it says. The other day a visitor heard occupancy at this Coral Coast resort was bouncing along healthily at 70 percent. It signals the emerging success of an Australia-Fiji partnership that is good news for Fiji. Good because the Hideaway Resort has been bought locally as an investment. By the Fiji Teachers Union Co-operative Thrift and Credit Society Ltd no less. That adds to local ownership and participation in our most economically important industry, tourism. Good too because the teachers, sensibly, called in experts in tourism marketing and the hospitality industry.

They got them to run Hideaway for them. That's Rydges. Rydges, a division of Australia's Amalgamated Holdings Limited, is a major operator. It runs 40 hotels and resorts. It has sent in experienced general manager Kerry Blackburn to lead its management of the rebranded 115-room Rydges Hideaway. This connection immediately includes Fiji in a successful Rydges membership programme. This is for people who stay at Rydges hotels. It is especially strong in one of our key tourism markets, Australia. It offers discounts that encourage members to stay at Rydges resorts such as the Hideaway. That's obviously contributing to the number of tourists now staying at the Rydges Hideaway.

Fiji is the first Pacific Islands country into which Rydnes has ventured. Yet another sign of confidence in our continuing role as the South Pacific's premier tourism destination.

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