One of the most iconic resorts and favourite tourist spots in Tonga is the famous Keleti Beach Resort with its picturesque views and stunning surroundings. The resort has featured in many visitors photo albums the world over, with many falling in love with its beauty and majestic views. The resort survived three decades of storms but it took on the full might of Gita and became the worst hit tourism destination in the Kingdom.
The resort is owned by the family of the late Sioeli ‘Ofa and was rebuilt from ground-up at a cost of over $1.5m and began trading attracting thousands of visitors annually. The ‘Ofa family operated the resort as a business venture with two of the grand children taking a stake in the business to keep it within the family. The ‘Ofa family put in their heart and soul into the resort and to watch the place destroyed has been gut-wrenching and absolutely devastating.
The resort is so popular that even after Cyclone Gita destroyed the facilities, visitors continued coming and asking to use the restaurant and the beach. Sadly, they could only use the beach because all the facilities have been decimated.
The Head of the ‘Ofa family, eldest son, Kevini ‘Ofa is in charge of operations, has poured blood, sweat and tears into the resort over the last decade and its destruction has been hard to accept. This is a strong family and they are determined to get the resort rebuilt.
Melino Maka, was there in 2006 to witness the rebuilding of the resort and believes that it needs to be restored to its former glory as an example of helping Tonga to get back on its feet. Mr Maka hopes to visit the resort soon and to see what is needed to get it back in operation as soon as possible.
Keleti is an iconic business and is known the world over. These are the ventures that donors need to support because it generates foreign currency and employs a solid workforce. It is a mecca for tourists so I hope that we can provide support for the resort because I was a regular visitor to the place and saw its reconstruction in 2006 but to see the pictures of its destruction is extremely depressing. My heart goes out to the family and I know the two grand children who worked hard to get the place back in operation again. This is a very sad situation but I believe there is hope so Keleti is going to be one of the iconic projects we should focus on for Tonga’s long-term future.
This resort represents the small businesses in Tonga affected by Cyclone Gita so I hope to ask donors and authorities to make sure they provide the financial resources and support needed to get these businesses like Keleti back on its feet asap. This is a long-term priority that needs to be part of the immediate plans. Tonga needs its small businesses operating again especially Keleti Beach Resort.
Chair – Tongan Advisory Council
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