Tonga’s Dateline Hotel plans to open ahead of schedule (V2-S5-16)

Tonga’s Tanoa Dateline Hotel is on track to re-open two months ahead of its January 2017 schedule. Although Cyclone Winston temporarily halted reconstruction it caused little damage to the hotel. It is set to re-open in October this year.

Pacific hotel industry doyen Y P Reddy (right) with son Rohit at the Tano Group's offices in Auckland.
Pacific hotel industry doyen Y P Reddy (right) with son Rohit at the Tanoa Group’s offices in Auckland.

Pacific Periscope interviewed Rohit Reddy, Managing Director of Reddy Group, parent company of the Tanoa Hotel chain in Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and New Zealand, in Auckland recently. Mr Reddy is a member of the Pacific Trade & Invest (PT&I) NZ Advisory Board.

Renovating the iconic International Dateline Hotel in Nuku’alofa was a journey into the unknown, Mr reddy said.  “We knew it (reconstruction) would be difficult and we didn’t know what we would find until the work began.”

Although the original timber in the hotel was not too bad, the untreated timber used by the previous owner was riddled with termites going throughout the hotel. “There were parts where you could poke holes through the timber,” he said. However, similar to the group’s Tanoa Tusitala Hotel reconstruction in Samoa, they have replaced all the internal structures and fittings. Every piece of timber, all the pipes and all the wiring has been replaced along with all the tiles and lighting, Mr Reddy said. “We’ve only got one chance to get it right.”

The costs are higher than the budget initially estimated. The new plan includes a new pool bar and restaurant complex, conferencing facilities, gym and a new health and spa facility.

But every step of the reconstruction was monitored under the watchful eye of company founder, and the doyen of the Pacific region’s hotel industry and Rohit’s father Yanktesh Permal (YP) Reddy.

“We couldn’t have done it without him,” says Mr Reddy Jnr – clearly proud of his 81 year old dad, who helped his brother Ram Sami Reddy, founder of the company in 1947, turn the small construction business into all it is today. YP’s years of experience and knowledge in the construction and hotel industry was invaluable for the rebuild.

The Dateline Hotel, Tonga.
The Dateline Hotel, Tonga.

But the road to reconstruction was not smooth. The Tanoa Hotel Group initially commenced negotiations for the Dateline Hotel in February 2014 but pulled back from the deal with the Government of Tonga six weeks later.

However, the Government of Tonga signed off an agreement with the directors of the Tanoa Hotel Group in March 2015 to ‘renovate, refurbish and manage’ the iconic International Dateline Hotel by January 2017. By August 2015, progress was well under way with photos posted to their Facebook page documenting the process.

Mr Reddy said plans are in place for the recruitment of 100 new staff by June/July. Followed by a two-month customer services training programme led by Tanoa’s internal training team together with Dr Semisi Tamoepeau, Head of Arts, Hospitality and Tourism Management Programmes, AIS St Helens, Auckland. Corporate trainees will be trained in Samoa whilst heads of department will receive their training in Samoa and Fiji.

Fortunately, Cyclone Winston swept overhead and the resilient hotel is set to welcome guests through its doors and into a shiny new era in October.

Welcoming news of the early opening, Rachel Afeaki Taumoepeau, Chairwoman of the NZ Tonga Business Council told Pacific Periscope, “The expectation is that this centrally located Hotel once in full operation will act as a catalyst to further developing Tonga’s economic and social landscape. Tanoa Group is a member of the NZ Tonga Business Council and the Council is planning its Trade Mission to Tonga to coincide with the reopening of the Hotel.”

For more information email Eleanor Ikinofo, Communications Officer PT&I NZ: eleanor.i@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz

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