How the Namale Resort & Spa in Fiji became the ultra-mate dive vacation experience
My wife Nowdla and I serve as the Co-General Managers here at The Namale Resort & Spa in Savusavu, Fiji. It was a few years back that we were sitting out on Tomba Deck, overlooking the Koro Sea and enjoying lunch with a very nice lady by the name of Janet. Janet was a visiting Travel Professional from Chicago and had been booking guests at Namale for many years. She was doing her annual visit to the resort to catch up on anything we had added that was new. We had just finished a delicious serving of Kokoda (think Fijian Ceviche) and our server was returning with some homemade sorbet for dessert when Janet just came out and said, “you must really stop referring to Namale as an All-Inclusive Resort”. Nowdla and I just glanced at each other with a confused look on our faces. Namale, since it first transitioned some 30 years ago from a working Coconut Plantation to a top-rated 5 Star Boutique Resort, had always been set up as an all-inclusive property. After an awkward pause I asked Janet, “Has everything been OK on your trip…. have you had any challenges or disappointments during your stay?” She started to laugh and said, “no, no, no, everything has been wonderful, as usual”. “In fact, that is my point…….the term All-Inclusive just doesn’t properly describe the experience that I and the guests that I send here have when they visit Namale”. She went on to say that she had been giving this quite a bit of thought over the past couple of days and that she thinks she has come up with a new term to describe the Namale experience. She said to us “the best way to describe Namale is “Ultra – Inclusive”. Intrigued, I thanked her for her kind words and asked if she could tell us a bit more about what she meant by “Ultra-Inclusive”.
She began by explaining that in the broad sense, a stay at Namale includes things that guests staying at a standard all-inclusive resort would fully expect to pay for. She went on to say… “Take lunch for example. We just finished having an amazing Kokoda. While we were ordering I noticed one of the other guests being served a tuna melt that the menu says is made with fresh-caught tuna steak and served on a homemade roll. I had a difficult time choosing between the two. The thing is, here at Namale, I don’t have to choose. If I wanted to, I could have ordered both! At any other resort, when dining a la carte, there would most likely be a charge for that. At Namale, that’s all included”. She shared that on the beverage side, Namale is one of only a very few inclusive resorts where alcoholic beverages are included, without limitations, as part of the standard rate. Janet also pointed out that Namale packages include Private Romantic Dine-Outs, opportunities to have lunch at a Waterfall or breakfast on a private seaside deck, or you could order room service 3 times a day, every day if you like. Most “inclusive” resorts charge additional fees for these types of dining experiences. At Namale it’s all included!
By this time Janet was on a roll and really giving us some valuable feedback about how her clients view Namale. She next wanted to talk about the selection of activities that we include. We could tell Janet had spoken about this many time with her clients as she began to list them from memory. “Daily Snorkeling trips, Sea Kayaking, Stand-Up Paddle Boarding, Water-Skiing, Tennis, Golf on the private 9 Hole Golf Course & private Driving Range, Hiking the Rain Forest trails, Horseback Riding, Fitness Center open 24 hours, Indoor Basketball, Kava Bowl Game Room open 24 hours with Virtual Golf, Pool Table, Table Tennis, Foos Ball, and Fiji’s only full-sized Bowling Alley, Apple TV On-Demand Movie System with over 900 titles and updated weekly with newest releases, just to name a few. All included at no additional fee. She also added that her clients thoroughly enjoyed the off-property activities offered. Pointing out that these activities did incur an additional fee, and, they felt that the experience was well worth the relatively small expense. Janet said that her clients particularly enjoyed the “Salt River Drift” and the “Remote Waterfall Hikes” that were offered.
We had been talking for quite some time and as we all glanced at our watches Janet was reminded that she had a shuttle to the airport she had to catch. We thanked her for sharing all of this with us, and, for all the business that she sends our way. Janet wasn’t done though, she had one more thing to add. She said “The one thing that virtually all of my clients mention to me is how much they felt that they were treated like family during their stay. How well they were taken care of. How wonderful and sincere the staff is and how personally they take the responsibility of seeing that each and every guest has a once-in-a-lifetime experience at Namale. It is what my clients remember the most and you can’t put a dollar value on that.” That is not the first time that Nowdla and I have heard comments like this from our guests and Travel Pros and it humbles us greatly each time someone shares that with us. Guests often want to compliment us on the great training that the staff receives. We thank them for the compliment but quickly let them know that yes, the staff does to a great deal of skillset training. However, what they are feeling is something that you can’t accomplish with training. It’s also not an amenity you can include in a package. It is the genuine warmth and level of caring for the people of Fiji. Especially our staff here at Namale. That is something that Nowdla and I cannot take credit for.
We thanked Janet again as we saw her, and a number of our departing guests off on the afternoon airport shuttle. We noticed a few tears welling up in the eyes of a few of our guest as the staff sang the traditional Fijian farewell song “Isa Lei”. Not an uncommon sight on departure days. We took Janet’s advice and from that day forward we began using Janet’s term “Ultra-Inclusive” to describe Namale’s package offerings. So, to Janet, and all our guests over the years who have shared their experiences, feedback, and suggestions, a BIG THANK YOU and Vinaka Vakalevu.
Written by: Bill Keefe, Co-General Manager
The Namale Resort & Spa, Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji Islands