I was forwarded the website from friends of mine Carly and Ed who organised a homestay with you last year. They loved it and Ed actually made you a CD as a bit of a thank you containing all his photos they took on the trip.
They sent the CD to me as I live just down the road at Holland Park West. I know you live in Tarragindi as I dropped them off there when they initially came to visit you but can't remember the address. I would really like to forward or drop the CD off to you, or , if you feel more comfortable I can give you my address and you can pick the CD up.
I know from Carly and Ed that they had an amazing time.
Don't be devastated! After 20 years in the tourism industry (Retail, Wholesale, Airline, and Hotelier on 3 continents) I've found that you can't please all the people all the time. Believe in your product and stand firm. Unlike most commercial operators you have a key humanitarian element that sets you apart. Just think about all the kids in Fiji that you are helping.
Judy and I had a great time, and it was very rewarding for us and our kids to see the village of Malevu. Your travel product is not a resort holiday, it's (soft)adventure travel. As a result of experiencing similar travel in Asia and Africa previously, one expects the unexpected. If I wanted a marble bathroom I would have gone to the Sheraton.
Keep up the good work, any publicity is good publicity and turn it to your advantage.
Wendy and I have had a wonderful stay at Namatakula. The food was absolutely first class fish caught locally the night before it was served to us, food grown on site and prepared and cooked in traditional manner (no additives!) and prepared hygienically.
Judith and Simon were great hosts if we ever get the opportunity we will visit them again. We were accepted as part of the family. The village people were very inclusive. I expressed interest in a game of volley ball and was taken to where it was being played and quickly included in a team.
We want to go back.
Just for the record, every member of the group (of ten) I took to Namatakula village in July thought it was the highlight of the trip. As an experienced tour operator I found the homestay to be extremely well organised, very good value for money and was a major part of our first Fiji trip being so successful.
Steve (from Intrepid Traveller)
Having returned from a homestay only a week ago, I am still wishing I was there!
We had a great time. It was interesting to watch cooking take place "Fijian" style, the kids were fascinated by village life and the village, Malevu, was just as we expected. The toilet was at the back of the house, the beds were comfortable and clean, the mosquito nets were a big hit with the kids, and there was no sign of unhygienic practices.
We enjoyed Malevu very much. It was not "five-star", yet that was the attraction, we wanted to experience something a little more cultural and "real" and for our children to do the same. They did, and I am really pleased they did. It was an experience we will never forget and daily my children ask if they can write and send things to the kids in the village that they met and became friends with.
If we can help in any way, please don't hesitate to contact us.
For what it's worth, I found the Fijibure.com website to be about as up front and down to earth as any promotional material for holiday destinations I have ever seen. Your account of the accommodation and facilities are about as frank as you can get (although rarely ever see).
Not to mention the fact that you have pictures of just about everything, and those are certainly not the misleading glamour shots you see in most brochures etc.
You will recall I stayed with Simon and Judith at Namatakula in May 2004.
My experience was exactly as described on your web site. I found my stay relaxing and very interesting.
I loved the Fijian food and the company of Simon, Judith and Tempa my guide.
For FD$60 a night it is a bargain and the money stays with the local people.
I have stayed in many Pacific Island communities and every thing about Namatakula was as good or better standards.
Please know that you have our full and unqualified support. Everyone we've mentioned our travel plans to wants to know more about the homestay portion of our trip. These are people who, once they've heard of our experience, will themselves want to be travelling to Fiji with such a sustainable and culturally compatible form of tourism option available to them.
Warmest regards to you and your family,
Ingrid Taggart and Tony Hodge
Apart from offering my support I would like to talk to you regarding the site and the villagers in Fiji. I think your concept is very good but ahead of its time. The travel business has to become more ecologically sound both from a resources point of view and also consumer demand. The resort complexes have reached saturation point and many are now finding it hard to fill their rooms. This is happening globally yet there is continued expansion - usually government aided. I think the fijibure concept is the way tourism should be going.
As I said I have worked in Ireland on a similar basis to you. I only dealt with individual owners, I chose places for their location and individuality and I had many happy customers over the years. The government backed Irish Tourist Board was always doing their best to finish me off, on one memorable occasion in 1992 they removed all my brochures from a stand at a German Tourist Fair. This was because I did not conform to their way of practice, I chose properties that didn't have televisions or washing machines or were possibly on a rough approach road and consequently did not qualify for Tourist Board promotion. The fact that they were in stunning locations and owned by local people who really cared about their visitors was not relevant.
The Tourist Board was busy sending people to the vast newly built holiday village complexes all over the country where visitors had all electrical appliances but also streets and streets of other holiday visitors. These complexes were not owned by local people but usually by companies or wealthy individuals in the cities or abroad who were looking for Tax Breaks. Ireland is now reaping the benefit of this action with rapidly falling visitor numbers.
Sorry to rant so long but I think the situation you find yourself in is similar to the one I was in at the end of the 90's. I put a web site together last year to promote a few properties for people, have a look www.irehols.com and this year I got involved with a small hotel who is struggling against the big chains - he's since given up the fight like so many others. www.glencarhotel.com
I may be able to help market the fiji concept - I have contacts in UK, Holland and Germany who also promote 'different' kinds of holidays and of course the internet now makes any business global. I would certainly be interested in talking to you some more about this. I admire what you have done so far and I hope you survive to fight another day after this very unfair attack from the gutter media.
I can only say, as I'm sure most of the previous vistors will echo, that we had a wonderful time in Namatakula village. Our one week stay at the same time as the other English couple Ed and Carly was probably the highlight of our round the world trip.
Judith and Simon looked after us as family and I would be terribly sad to see all the good work undone as the result of a couple of "tourists" who probably should never have gone to Fiji in the first place.
Mike and Eileen Saunders
Our stay in Namatukala with Simon, Judith and the family was without doubt the highlight of our trip to Fiji. The hospitality was very genuine and the food was fantastic. We really enjoyed the discussions with Tema during the day and Simon and Judith at night about the differences and similarities between life in Ireland and Fiji. We left Namatakula with a real understanding and appreciation of life in the village. I hope you don´t become too discouraged at the current situation and that more travellers like ourselves get to expericence the homestays. Simon and Judith were fantastic hosts and explained to us how the money they earned from the homestays would be used to renovate the community centre. We left in no doubt of the genuine nature of the whole fijibure.com project. During our time in Fiji we stayed at different islands and resorts and witnessed the exploitation of the Fijian people by ruthless western businessmen. It´s these so called "resorts" that should be investigated. Please find attached photo´s of our visit to Namatakula. We have already sent Simon and Judith some photos of home and a 2005 calendar of Ireland as a token of our appreciation and have enthused about our stay to fellow travellers.
All the best,
Brian and Niamh.
Just a quick note to add my support to what it is that you have done over there in Fiji. I greatly admire your work and I know that you are making a world of difference to those people and villages there and I believe that you should receive an award for your efforts. The last thing you deserve is what has just happened..
I know first hand what a difference you are making and what a unique experience you are offering.
All the best
I have stumbled accross your website after returning from Fiji with my 10 year old son last night. I stayed at Sonaisali Island Resort, which is definetely one of the overpriced, overwhelming resorts. As it was our first time in Fiji I went with the recommendations of the travel agent, not really knowing the alternatives.
My son and I got very friendly with the indigenous Fijian staff that worked at Sonaisali, alot of them being from the nearby village of Korovuto. I found out that the true owners of Sonaisali are the villagers and that an Australian by the name of Macguire from Sydney had taken a 99 year lease of Sonaisali and in return is (apparently) improving things for their community.
Most of the staff informed me that they were being paid only $2.60 per hour, with no overtime allowance which I thought was disgusting. The highlight of my trip to Fiji was getting to know these people. My son and I went to the village of Korovuto and spent a small amount of time with the villagers. The village was very clean. The people obviously were very proud of their heritage and community.
From what I was told by the villagers the leasers of Sonaisali had assisted the village by providing power and phone cabling to the village. From the prices being charged at the resort, they could provide so much more in my opinion. My son was very welcomed by the children, with both of us becoming very fond of a couple of gorgeous little 5 year old girls.
I am not sure how you choose your homestay villages, but was wondering if you could consider Korovuto village, as I know that the villagers are very welcoming towards guests and very much in need of the financial aide that this would bring them.
I am not in the tourism industry but have been a business manager for 12 years and have a good business mind. If I can assist you in anyway to maintain this wonderful homestay accommodation venture that you have undertaken in Fiji I would be more than happy and would feel priviledged to assist.
I have found your website to be incredibly informative and urge that you don't let these gutter journalists dampen your spirit, as you are doing something so worthwhile for these people. I was so touched and inspired by the people that I met at Korovuto that I can't wait for my next trip to Fiji, in which I most definetely want to stay in homestay accommodation.
Chin up mate - you are doing a really great job!
Ni sa bula Scott,
I read about the disaster that has befallen you, your family and most sadly the Fijian entrepreneurs who were finally getting an opportunity to participate in Fiji's tourism development. I have written about Fiji since 1972 and lived there from 72 - 74. I have published Fiji destination articles in ten countries. When I first learned about the Fiji homestay programme, I was delighted. It sure as heck beats the trickle down effect for helping people who need it the most.
I am offering you the opportunity to write a guest article for one of my Suite101.com topics - Current Events - The Pacific Islands. Unfortunately, my topics are limited to about 1,200 words but you are welcome to provide lots of links and you will be able to depend on me to do a follow up article when the timing is right. You may care to go to the above URL and go through my articles. You will find that I have been around for awhile. I think that an article from you would do more to support your case against the tyranny of the Australian media much better than I could do because, after all this is a core element for you, while it is only a peripheral item for me.
I first visited Fiji in 1966, about a year after Raymond Burr had purchased Naitauba from Mrs. Hennings, who I was fortunate in meeting on a jaunt to Naitauba. I have many fond memories of my first days in Fiji as you will soon gather when you scan my articles. I don't know if some of the Taveuni locals ever did forgive me for my Fast Eddie article though.
Please let me know if you wish to go ahead with this.
Suite 101.com receives slightly in excess of two million visitors a month and has 500,000 members and over 500 writers, including Sally Odgers, who lives in Tasmania. We just might be able to help.
Ni sa moce
I have visited Fiji 28 times over the past 16 years. During my visits I always stay on the coral coast. Having been so often I have formed many great friendships with a number of the locals and have always been welcomed into their homes.
The fijians are a friendly race trying to keep hold of their traditions and the real fiji while the western world tries to take over as it has done in other areas of the pacific.
Thank you so much for what you have started with the villages in Fiji, and we hope that it can continue either with you or with someone to whom you feel comfortable passing the torch. If you have decided to discontinue your association with FijiBure before our village stay, please let us know as soon as possible how our arrangements may be affected. We hope you take heart and decide to keep it going. I don't believe a few nay-sayers will ruin what you have built.
I hope we have a chance to meet, but if not know that our good thoughts are with you and your family.
John & Marilyn Nelson
Eugene, Oregon, USA