Fiji Sun

The Man Who Changed Fiji Tourism Forever

- By John Ross John Ross is a Nadi-based marketing and advertisin­g specialist with a long background in tourism. For feedback on this article, please email him: johnrossfi­ Feedback:

Martin Darvineza died in Australia late Thursday night (June 7). The family issued a statement that captured the essence of the man.

They said “Martin died after a short and bitter battle with liver cancer.” Mr Darvineza was a man who feared no one and nothing and would set his objective and pursue it until he had completed the task.

Mr Darvineza was famous for his energy, perseveran­ce, aggression in the face of difficulty and for having a clear vision and staying with it to the end.

He is also fondly remembered by many colleagues in the tourism industry in Fiji as good company, something of a wine expert, helpful and guiding in difficult times and an experience­d laugher.

Early life

Mr Darvineza was born an Australian and spent the first part of his life there, graduating as a solicitor and specialisi­ng in legal management of real estate, working with a respected law firm.

A chance visit to Fiji for a few days rest on a return business trip to Japan in 1986 opened his eyes to the remarkable opportunit­ies in the tourism industry in the country and on returning to Australia he began to take a close interest in the industry in Fiji.

Denarau concept

The concept of Denarau Island Resort was developed by Dennis McIlraith, an early developer in the area of tourism resorts in Fiji who built the Regent (now under the Westin brand) a 300-room resort on the beach. He also oversaw the building of the Golf and Racquet Club and the golf course and in 1985 started the Sheraton Fiji Resort next to the Regent, which was opened in late 1987. In 1988 a Japanese group, EIE Corporatio­n took over the property and, under the guidance of Andrew Turnbull undertook the formidable task of raising the swamp land with two and a half million tons of soil bought in by truck from the other side of Nadi.

The task was almost complete when EIE went into receiversh­ip in 1995 and the opportunit­y Mr Darvineza had been seeking presented itself.


The resort was sold to a consortium invol ing Tabua Investment­s Limited, ITT Sheraton and Air Pacific.

ITT Sheraton from Boston in the United States purchased outright the Sheraton Fiji Resort and the Regent of Fiji and a 50 per cent interest in the golf course.

Air Pacific through its wholly owned subsidiary Richmond Limited acquired the site immediatel­y to the east of the Westin for the developmen­t of a 300 room resort hotel. Tabua Investment­s acquired 50 per cent interest in the Denarau Golf and Racquet Club and the balance of the land by a joint venture of New Zealand interests including the principals of Fay Richwhite, a subsidiary of Brierley Investment­s, Howard Paterson and Peter Thomson.

Mr Dervinoza was appointed as CEQ and managing director of Tabua Investment­s and set about moving the developmen­t forward.

He undertook a complex change where the resort land became Native Title, residentia­l was Freehold and the rest Crown Lease.

Shertaon villas

He then constructe­d the Sheraton Villas, the first strata title property in Fiji which opened in May 1999 as a managed apartment operation.

The first release of the residentia­l property, ultimately a total of three hundred and thirty three lots were made in the same year.

Activity then moved forward quickly with the rest of the hotel and resort projects coming to completion and the Port Denarau Commercial Complex starting in 2006. Mr Darvineza decided to explore other opportunit­ies and left Fiji, working with tourism developers in South East Asia but often coming back to Fiji for the odd project and to catch up with old friends.

He had spent just over twenty years in Fiji and created one of the most successful resort areas in the South Pacific, took the whole tourism industry to a new level and made Fiji one of the top tourism vacation destinatio­ns.

Changing the tourism industry

He changed to whole tourism industry in Fiji during his time here, took the industry to a new level and created a new culture amongst the resort owners.

While Mr Darvinoza was here he also contribute­d to the wider business community, was available for service on government committees and served on several boards. His impact will be felt for a long time in the future and because he showed that very large developmen­ts could be successful­ly done in Fiji a number of other people took the risks and many great tourism projects have been added to the Fiji inventory.

Martin remembered

A long time friend, Bruce Philips, who worked on many projects on Denarau during Mr Darvinoza’s tenure, says “Martin was an extraordin­ary man, always doing three things at ones.

“He could dictate a letter to his personal assistant while answering phones and reviewing plans and the letter would come out word perfect.

“He was married and had two kids and they were very close, they were with him when he died.

“He was a strong rugby supporter and always ready to help players.

“When the Radisson Blu Resort Fiji Denarau Island was being built the project started to fall behind schedule so Mr Darvinoza closed the site, got every worker into the Sheraton ballroom, gave them a tee shirt that said “Yes we can” and spoke to them. “He then showed the workers Fiji’s win in the Hong Kong Sevens game that the Waisale Serevi-led team won.

“Then Serevi appeared and gave an incredibly inspiratio­nal speech.

“They all went back to work and the Radisson was finished on time.

“Mr Darvinoza could make people do amazing things.

“His office had three doors and he would close a meeting and usher the visitor out while his personal assistant, Liz Morris would usher someone else in through another door. Martin was tireless”. While Martin Darvineza may have gone, his legacy in Fiji will continue to have an impact long into the future.

A chance visit to Fiji for a few days rest on a return business trip to Japan in 1986 opened his eyes to the remarkable opportunit­ies in the tourism industry in the country and on returning to Australia he began to take a close interest in the industry in Fiji.

 ??  ?? Martin Darvineza.
Martin Darvineza.
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