The much-loved holiday paradise is getting ready to rise out of the pandemic doldrums returning to form with more enticing resorts than ever before.
Among the mangroves at Momi Bay, on the west coast of Fiji nestles a stunning resort, a project that took more than a decade to realise. It eventually opened just over a year before the Covid virus started its insidious spread. Then International borders slammed shut and tourism, a mainstay of the Fiji economy, withered to nothing.
But it isn’t the first time Marriott Momi Bay has faced adversity. Its original owners started the project but ran into financial difficulties and the partially built resort infrastructure was put into mothballs. The site, complete with a fully built prototype bure-style guestroom, remained abandoned for years before the project was rescued by the new state-backed owners.
The owners brought back the original interior design firm, CHADA, to finish the job they had started. Returning to the property, CHADA partners Juliet Ashworth and Rick Whalley found the locked mock-up bure was in perfect condition inside, the bed was made up and every piece of furniture was just how they had left it.
“There was no doubt in our minds that the Fijians would find a way to see the Momi Bay vision through,” says Juliet. “It was the largest overwater resort development in Fiji. Massive land reclamation to create a lagoon and planting of mangroves to protect the eco system had to happen and, with a great deal of ingenuity, they made it work,” explains Juliet.
Marriott Momi Bay is spread out over an expansive man-made lagoon with 250 rooms in total, 22 of which are over-water bure villas which cater for adults only.
“The ethos of the design was not to over embellish,” Juliet explains. “It needed to have a strong sense of the environment. The luxury was in the view, the generous internal space and private deck, a huge comfortable bed, and egg-shaped bath. We added subtle cultural motifs against a simple, chic choice of local materials.”
Marriott Momi Bay had just hit its stride with rave reviews from travel writers and guests alike. “There’s a lot of pent-up demand for Fiji travel. The hoteliers are optimistic and they’ve invested heavily so they’re ready with great products,” say resort-interior design guru, Rick Whalley.
“We’re very privileged to be part of the recovery,” he adds.
That same optimism has driven a rash of extensive resort refurbishments in Fiji during the Covid lockdowns. Again, the go-to interior designers at CHADA, were brought onto the projects to create fresh new looks for The Sofitel, The Sheraton, and The Westin hotels in the popular Denarau Island resort mecca.
The Sheraton Denarau construction is underway for a full makeover to create a contemporary design in a resort setting. The guestroom look, which is still under wraps, represents a stunning new direction for the brand introducing on-trend fluted glass walls with black metal framing mixed with local timbers. The public areas’ concept is bright, fresh, modern and luxurious mixing a locally-inspired design language with a cool residential vibe.
First to reach the refurbishment finishing line is The Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa. CHADA has given the guestrooms a fresh new look by deconstructing the traditional layout and placing the vanity so that guests can engage with the tropical landscape while brushing their teeth!
The central building over two levels has been fully refurbished to introduce a more island feel with random stone paving and meandering pathways around a cascading water feature. A rustic timber planked ceiling and mosaic mural featuring local plants give the lobby a lush tropical ambience.
A stone’s throw away is another CHADA project, The Westin, also in refurbishment mode. The design team is back after 15 years, having done the original Westin design when the resort was rebranded in 2006.
“We’ve really focused on biophilic principals which have always been at the heart of the Westin brand, only now there’s a name for it,” says CHADA’s Juliet Ashworth.
“The colour and material palette comes from textural interpretations of landscape, native plantations and ocean treasures. It’s just a beautiful calm and rejuvenating space,” she adds.
Project: Marriott, Sofitel, Westin, Sheraton
Design Studio: CHADA
– Images courtesy of Marriott Momi Bay
– Images courtesy of Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa, and CHADA