Aga Reef Resort: A legacy of excellence

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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 Aga Reef Resort Managing Director Va’atuitui Apete Meredith with his mother.

Aga Reef Resort Managing Director Va’atuitui Apete Meredith with his mother.

Aga Reef Resort has just been named “Australasia’s Best Relaxation Retreat” by the World Boutique Hotel Awards.

Out of 600 nominees from 80 countries, Aga Reef Resort claimed the accolade for achieving their vision in creating the perfect sanctuary experience for resort guests.

It’s a huge achievement for Samoa.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Managing Director Va’atuitui Apete Meredith gives us a behind-the-scenes look into the meticulous groundwork that went into the development of the luxurious retreat and why Aga Reef Resort is so special to their extended family 

From the beginning, Va’atuitui wanted to make sure that the development of Aga Reef was going to be a first rate effort with the highest quality that he could manage. He and his family wanted to do justice to the beautiful site by building a monument to honour his father’s legacy and vision for his family

“It was our father’s dream to have the development,” he said. 

“The actual design itself that was our contribution. It was quite the challenge to finalise the design and the final project itself. 

“We wanted to have something high-end that would complement what we have in the Aleipata area and also at the same time that was different to a lot of properties around Samoa, so that we could actually increase the range of options for those tourists who were looking at Samoa and can have another choice. 

“That was the concept behind the whole thing. So I looked at the Caribbean. I didn’t want to look in the Pacific because I didn’t want something else that was Pacific. I looked at the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles, Maldives and finally I found something off the coast of Africa.”

At the center of Va’atuitui’s fathers’ vision is a story about love and loyalty. The Aga Reef Resort is a dedication to the matriarch of their family, Lupe Meredith, who inspired the development and continues to be a special part of it. 

“She is and always will be a part of Aga Reef. She was part of that vision that Dad had in wanting to develop something that would benefit the people of the village where my mum was from.

“He always wanted to do something for my mum before he would go because for years and years my mother was the person behind him­ - you know that saying that behind every good man is a better woman? Well it’s true. 

“While we were growing up, we always saw in her that she was the loyalist. She was so loyal to him in anything and everything that he did. When my father entered politics, his fa’a Samoa wasn’t as good as my mother’s. She was the one who would show him what to do, she knew what to do and she made sure that my Dad played that part right. So that’s why she will be always be that figurehead for us.”

One of the resort’s qualities is its aesthetic appeal, blending into its natural environment which adds to the retreat feeling.

“Part of the core concept was having something that would blend in which is why we went with the timber, the colours, the whole thing was never ad hoc. Before we even built, we actually decided on every single thing, down to the furniture.”

The resort has been described as simple and luxurious. Va’atu’itui salutes their Operations Manager, his wife Edith Meredith for her contribution in making the resort a success crediting her impeccable taste. 

“I have to give credit to Edith for a lot of that. Edith has very good taste and a good eye but she also doesn’t like clutter. She chose the whole layout to ensure that it was simple, elegant and luxurious,” he says.

 “Anything to do with the décor I just left it to Edith, that’s the woman’s touch that you see. As guys, we can try all we like to do the same thing but we can’t even get close. I tell you what, she’s proven herself right. A lot of the stuff has lasted into the 5th year. So you know, I picked the right quality of woman.

Raising seven children with very different personalities has equipped Va’atuitui and Edith on how to manage people but as well as the décor, Va’atuitui prefers to leaves the staff management to Edith recognizing that her character strength lies in her intuitive leadership which has been key to creating a winning staff to deliver on their promise.

 “She’s a really good judge of character. It’s just amazing. Now that I have worked with her and left that with her – she has proven me wrong so many times, it’s not funny. To the extent where I think she’s psychic. Even my kids think that she’s psychic. She is a very strong woman and she has very strong intuition. We always laugh and I say to my girls, I wish you would pick up on your mother’s talent.”

“I don’t know how she gets away with half the things she does but I tell you what, you ask any one of the staff there, the respect she has – she commands full respect from all of them and they all respect her. That’s the combination and we worked out where our strengths are, it’s not an easy industry to work in.”  

Va’atu’itui and Edith were honoured that Aga Reef resort was recognized with their global award and it has really boosted their staff morale and confidence,

”The challenge is always maintaining this level. Now we can show our staff that this award is an acknowledgement of the high level of services provided by the staff and the team leaders. This service is about total team service delivery it’s not about me – everything has to work together. It doesn’t matter how good everyone is, one bad apple can spoil the whole thing. They’re all really happy with the award and they are proud of themselves.”

Va’atu’i is optimistic about their future and he enjoys the challenge but he points out no one in the tourism industry can do it alone,

“Hospitality is hard, here we are literally running more than one business with the restaurant, accommodation, the bar, guest travel services. It’s a real challenge and to top it off – you cannot do it alone. In terms of bringing numbers in the government has to play a part in it. Improving the airport was important – thank you for that investment, we need S.T.A. to come up to scratch with numbers so that we can have people here. We need Samoa Airways to play their part in bringing the numbers in because whatever we do we cannot do it alone.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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