FHTA Tourism Talanoa: From Backpacker Haven to Luxury Destination: Wailoaloa’s Decade-Long Evolution Unveiled


FHTA, 18 May 2023 – The Wailoaloa area in Nadi Bay is a popular tourism hotspot that is traditionally known for its initially backpacker-oriented atmosphere with smaller, informal resorts that were preferred by many looking for no-frills, budget accommodation.

Over the years, buy-outs, extensions and new builds have slowly transformed the area known locally for its black sandy beach that stretches almost flat for a few kilometres, which has undergone a gradual evolution over the past decade.

Wailoaloa was always an old favourite hang-out for locals as well as visitors who liked the informal atmosphere, and where beach parties, the Nadi Golf Club and the Nadi Boat Club were also to be found. Initially, the area was settled by local fishermen who set up close to the sea that their livelihoods depended on, while up the hills from the flat sandy beaches, the older Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji (CAAF) homes sit that overlook the golf course and airport runway.

Not many places around the world can boast the best aircraft take-off and landing views while teeing off next to a beach known for its dense, black sand.

Sunday mornings often see many locals on this beach waiting for the fishermen to return with their catch.

Eventually, the old fishermen’s homes gave way to infrastructure development that then brought more homes, apartments and commercial areas. As tourism grew and demand increased; buildings got higher and more rooms and supporting services sprang up that included spas, connections to the nearby islands for day trips and water sports, as well as restaurants, shops and transport services.

The recently announced opening of the Crowne Plaza Fiji Nadi Bay Resort & Spa promises a new look and upgraded facilities to offer a “level up” for more discerning visitors and locals alike.

In the context of the hospitality industry, hotel franchises and hotel management groups play significant roles in the development, operation, and branding of hotels.

Hotel franchises involve the licensing of a well-established hotel brand, allowing independent hotel owners to utilize the brand’s name, systems, and marketing support in exchange for fees.

In return, hotel management groups provide expertise in managing and operating hotels on behalf of owners, handling various aspects such as staffing, marketing, and financial management.

By understanding the changing customer base, hotel franchises and management groups can tailor their offerings to provide personalized services, exclusive experiences, and exceptional levels of comfort.

This can involve implementing sophisticated guest loyalty programs, offering tailored concierge services, integrating technology solutions to enhance convenience and efficiency, and providing all of these services to lift an area that already had appeal, but might not have attracted a more demanding clientele.

While introducing upscale amenities and attracting a more affluent clientele, it is also crucial for hotel franchises and management groups to maintain the unique characteristics and relaxed ambience that define their locality.

Preserving the area’s charm and authenticity will be key to sustaining its appeal and fostering a sense of place for visitors.

This development is set to reshape Wailoaloa and the surrounding Nadi Bay area’s branding, and likely impact the overall tourism landscape in what was already a vibrant tourism hub with so much more to offer in the area.

While Wailoaloa has traditionally been home to smaller resorts that catered to budget-conscious travellers, particularly backpackers seeking affordable accommodation options; research shows that younger travellers who now find owning a home in their country no longer an option, are choosing to travel more and savour (and post) as many experiences as they can get in one-holiday destination.

And they don’t mind paying for quality especially if it comes with an area that spoils you for choices.

The area’s appeal lies in its relaxed ambience, which provides an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, without going too far. A range of al fresco dining options allows you to walk in off the beach, move on to the next open decking to sample frothy cocktails with inspirational names, or move in the direction of music from a live band a few doors down the beach. Beach parties, music or art festivals, and craft markets have always offered a variety of different things to do here.

The addition therefore of 324 rooms at the Crowne Plaza is timely, with the brandnew two-bedroom family rooms and ocean-facing king suites set to be the crowning jewel of the hotel. The resort will also include a new day spa that will feature 6 double treatment rooms. While perfect for the meeting and events market, the hotel will also call home to a new 600-seat convention centre that will complement the hotel’s existing conferencing space.

Adding to the Nadi Bay epicurean options, the resort will feature seven dining outlets, including a lobby bar, a whisky bar, an all-day dining restaurant, an Italian restaurant, a Beach Club and a Nightclub.

The establishment of the new resort and the fact that Fiji welcomes another worldclass brand like the Crowne Plaza adds to the transformative impact that new developments and upgraded infrastructure can have on the area’s attractiveness.

The addition of more rooms, more family-styled choices as well as higher-end accommodation options, contributes to diversifying the range of choices available to visitors. It is not just about location. It is also about having so many more choices.

What will probably make the biggest impact on the surrounding areas will be the larger-scale conference facility that the Crown Plaza will offer. Nothing creates a rippling, flow-on effect like a conference centre that can host larger crowds. With this comes the opportunity to select from a range of accommodation options, take in entertainment and excursions, as well as use the surrounding area’s bustling restaurant, shopping and transportation choices. Because the Nadi Bay area is centrally located between Denarau and Nadi Airport and within 30 minutes of a vast range of island, cultural and flora culture options; tourism’s trickle-down impact will be felt more noticeably by the supporting supplier networks of SMEs and local businesses. (Modafinil)

The long-awaited transformation of the Nadi Bay area that has been hindered by historic challenges to drainage issues, access to water, power and new waste management systems will hopefully find some major relief with interest and growing demand that could lift everyone else along with some much-needed investment being allowed to progress.

So welcome to the Crowne Plaza and get ready everyone else to see more developments in this area take hold.

Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 18 May 2023)