‘I love this work’

Bulou Ratulevu at Beqa Lagoon Resort where she has worked for two decades. Picture: VILIAME NADRO

FOR more than 20 years, Bulou Ratulevu has been working and she has become the face of Beqa Lagoon Resort when visitors visit the island. The first thing that greets tourists as soon as they step ashore on Beqa is Bulou’s big bula smile.

She looks after their welfare and makes sure tourists enjoyed their time. It’s a work that she has come to love and relish as she gets to meet people from all walks of life.

“We just had a visitor who was back for the ninth visit to the island,” the grandmother said.

“It’s always lovely to have visitors return. We have a saying that when you visit as a guest, you return as a friend.”

Surrounded by rainforest and tropical gardens, the resort is accessible only by boat. It is located on Beqa, an outlying island south of Viti Levu.

The resort prides itself as an all-inclusive retreat with garden- and pond-view bungalows. When the resort opened its doors in the 1990s, it had only six bure (traditional Fijian structures),” said Bulou.

“The owner was an American called George Taylor. “He had visited Beqa back in 1989 and saw the potential for tourism here. Since then it has been the main source of income for most of us.

“I couldn’t have imagined that I’d be here. I was educated at Raviravi District School and secondary at Gospel High where I reached up to form 5 (Year 11).

“I came back to the village, got married and have four children. And when Mr Taylor opened the resort, I applied immediately, and I started working as a housemaid, then I got promoted to work in administration and as supervisor.”

Ms Ratulevu added the largely untrained villagers who started out with her had to learn along the way when the resort opened.

“With the few tourists that came in, we learnt to cover all the areas, from bar to the cleaning of the hotels to serving the visitors and as the hotel grew we got better at it and gained confidence.”

From six bure, the resort grew to 25 deluxe air-conditioned Fijian style bure. “The resort’s main market are mostly from US. “In 2004, Mr Taylor sold the resort and new owners have since come in,” says Ms Ratulevu.

“Our children have even joined us in this work. For one, the resort has helped employ school leavers. It has also helped develop our homes in the village and education. “We want visitors to feel at home when they come here. I love this work — the easy socialising and you make lifelong friendships.

“My advice though is that we keep our traditional values as an iTaukei as this defines who we are. “This is what separates us from the world,” she said with finality.’

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