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‘It was one angry cyclone’


Intrust Super’s CEO Brendan O’Farrell was on Fiji’s Denarau Island when TC Evan hit. This is his story.

“This week I have been staying at the Radisson Blu Resort Fiji on Denarau Island. And what a week it has been.

On Monday, the preparation of the hotel was well advanced of Cyclone Evan. Everything [loose furniture] was tied off or thrown in pool.

All guests were hand delivered or room dropped instructions for the anticipation of the day ahead. It was a very clear set of instructions.

Staff undertaking food drops at the Radisson

The General Manager, Gerard Knight, provided three briefings (on the hour) over breakfast which made it very clear to guests to the best of their knowledge) what would be occurring over the days ahead. It was also made very clear that no promises could be made due to the nature of what a cyclone could deliver. They advised guests what should happen and how to prepare their own room to ensure maximum safety.

Guests were advised to go back to rooms following breakfast (1030am), lock themselves down and don’t leave the room until notified.

When the cyclone hit it was one angry cyclone. It really hit hard between 4pm and 9pm and those five or so hours of maximum weather conditions were unbelievable. There was also very bad weather for about 12 hours.

The power of the cyclone was quite unbelievable – especially the way it buckled and smashed the hotel’s [iconic] steel sails in the pool. Watching that process of destruction really made you realise the power of Mother Nature.

The swell out the front of the resort (it is usually flat) at the height of the storm resembled [Queensland’s] Kirra Point on a great day. I reckon it was an easy two-metre swell.

The supplies seemed to be well resourced – the hotel’s shop didn’t seem to run out of staples such as food and water.

The amazing thing through this whole 12-hour period was never once did we lose power and this enabled the guests to continue to communicate with friends through the use of the hotel’s free WiFiinternet. This was critical to ensure guests were comforted by social media support from friends and family back home. And better still, it kept the kids entertained! And kids not stressed equaled parents not stressed.

The clean-up on Denarau Island

Facebook and Twitter was getting a workout, especially as the local phone communications dropped in and out with no real usage consistency, which was expected.

The amazing thing was that the hotel team delivered all guests a hot meal, being pizzas or a great curry and rice. And this was even during the height of the storm – why? Because it was 8pm and everyone was hungry – and this was a truly remarkable effort.

With this meal there was further communication from the General Manager about what to expect the next day. In the front foyer there were daily updates of what the hotels objectives for the day were, which was obviously a clear list or priorities.

Expectations were then set. And at all times prior and after the cyclone there was a senior executive manning this foyer to help with instructions. Something tells me that multi skilling became a priority!

The next day came and what a mess there was.

What was truly remarkable was the number of hotel guests helping out the staff at the hotel. This would have numbered well in excess of 100. I believe this support and help was payback to the hotel for the manner in which it looked after its guests.

There were comments from guests such as “if their staff can work around the clock then five hours of our time is worth it”, “the sooner it’s done the sooner the kids get back in the pool” and “we can whinge and complain or do something and get it to a state that we can use”.

Guests assist in the clean-up at the Radisson

Coming from Brisbane where the Brisbane floods needed community to pull together to achieve a goal, this was another example of what people power and goodwill can achieve.

Staff put the guests first. Talking to some staff they had not been home in three days and put guests first over family and friends. This is something you have to be truly appreciative and grateful of. The Fijian people never once looked agitated or concerned. Their level of calmness was remarkable. They knew what they had to do.

The hotel was well prepared, there was strong communication and a dedicated team ensured all guests were well looked after. This you do not get unless you have strong leadership.

Yes, it did disrupt our holidays. But we are still here. We had communication, power, food and day two we were back in the pool.”

-AS TOLD TO JAMES WILKINSON

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