It was with some degree of frustration I Do Fiji Holidays needed to inform one couple last week that their destination wedding location in Fiji for next year was no longer available. The predicament reiterates the message – make sure you book travel insurance as soon as you outlay any cash for your wedding/honeymoon/holiday.
I’m not afraid to admit that I hold a very close affinity with Mana Island Resort & Spa – after all, it was the spot in Fiji’s Mamanuca Islands that I chose to marry and it’s where my youngest child was christened five years ago.
Last week, it was confirmed to I Do Fiji Holidays directly from Mana Island that it would be shutting its doors to guests for an extended period in 2017, much the same as was the case this year.
The resort had secured a total buy-out that was too good to refuse. A “production company”, which is understood to be behind the hugely popular American reality TV series Survivor, is returning to Fiji again, taking over Mana Island Resort & Spa from 29 March through to 6 July 2017. (It was only a few weeks ago we reported Mana Island had welcomed its first guests back after filming for season 33 of Survivor had wrapped up).
No, the show’s contestants are not going to be living it up in style at the resort in the next few seasons. They’ll be “roughing it” as per usual, on another remote island in the Mamanucas. Instead the film crew and production team will have somewhere very comfortable to stay during filming.
For Mana, the business decision makes sense. The resort has the support of the Fijian Government, local communities and indigenous land owners. It supports the country’s initiative to promote Fiji as a movie destination, which brings in big dollars. The last production engaged more than 300 villagers who reportedly received in excess of FJ$2.6 million in benefits which funded education, rebuilding of schools, housing, churches and community halls that were damaged by Cyclone Winston in February. That’s in addition to whatever monetary deal Mana Island struck with the production company.
So what does that mean for couples who had confirmed weddings or honeymoons?
I certainly dislike being the bearer of bad news. I can only imagine the deflation those affected couples would feel. Having spent time handpicking their dream location and likely sending out ‘save the date’ invitations so their guests could start saving or request holiday leave. It does create turmoil.
But in this case there is no alternative but to be up-front, explain the situation and offer alternatives.
For I Do Fiji Holidays’ couples affected, the fall back options are to 1) stick with the same resort, but potentially move the wedding date forward, 2) delay the wedding date until after the closure period or 3) offer an alternative resort in the Mamanucas or elsewhere in Fiji that could provide a similar experience. Or dare I say it, look to another destination in the South Pacific?
Naturally, any deposit paid to Mana to secure a wedding date will be carried over to a new date or refunded in full if the couple elect to relocate. If they decide to remain at Mana, I’ll do my best to secure a special added bonus, due to the inconvenience.
It should be noted, that situations like this are very unique and while very apologetic, Mana Island has provided more than nine months notice. Ample time to consider other options and still secure great deals.