One-on-one with Shangri-La’s Chris Hamilton

Chloe Noel De Kerbrech

We recently sat down with the resident manager of Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort & Spa, Yanuca, Chris Hamilton, to find out more about the property’s MICE offering.

TW: What are the top the qualities of Shangri-La Fiji’s Resort & Spa, Yanuca, that differentiate it from its competitors in the MICE space?

CH: Our number one USP is the extensive variety of conference, dining and accommodation options we can offer our MICE delegates. We are the only private island resort in Fiji and the largest with 109 acres to play with, so the flexibility we can offer is endless. In our experience, no two events are the same and people want to have the ability to create the perfect bespoke event. We can accommodate up to 750 residential delegates and companies have the option of booking the entire resort on an exclusive use basis, offering total privacy.

Secondly, the quality of our food and beverage offering is definitely worth writing home about. All produce is sourced locally on the island so that can we can offer global cuisine grown in Fiji. For example, we have our own coconut plantation and our guests go through over 2,000 coconuts a week. Our team of chefs also have really strong relationships with the island’s local growers and fisherman which means we’re able to source direct. A testament to the quality of our food and beverage offering is the gold medal and Fiji Chef of the Year accolade our very own Chandini Singh recently picked up at the Fiji Chef’s Association Salon Culinary Competition. Guests can enjoy fresh local seafood for lunch at the Beach Bar & Grill or pan-Asian plates at Takali Asian Kitchen, or traditional Italian dishes at Golden Cowrie Coastal Italian. With multiple restaurants, it’s possible to dine around Fiji without leaving the resort.

Lastly, we offer meaningful experiences that can be incorporated into MICE events. For example, we have a traditional Fijian village located on site at the hotel called The Marau Village. It is here MICE groups can experience an authentic Fijian welcome, get involved in a torch lighting and kava ceremony, or watch a talented Fijian fire walker and afterwards indulge in a traditional Fijian lovo – a feast cooked in an earth oven. It’s a great place to showcase the incredible traditions and heritage of Fiji’s rich culture.

TW: How many events on average do you host per year?

CH: We’re busy all year round with MICE events, from small incentive meetings to exclusive use buyouts.

What are some add on experiences you can offer MICE groups to enrich their experience of Shangri-La Fiji’s Resort & Spa, Yanuca?

We take our role in helping protect our planet seriously and we help raise awareness and educate our colleagues, guests and suppliers on how to make a difference in as many ways as we can. As such, there is a wide variety of CSR programs companies can get involved in such as planting trees nearby Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Heritage Park, building fish houses for the marine life, and structurally improving schools and villages. 

We also have a program we call Dine by Design, which is a dining experience tailored to the needs of guests. It involves crafting a bespoke menu, to designing a theme for the dinner complete with decorations and then hosting it in a secret location to create the ultimate personalised dining experience.

The lagoon lends itself to fantastic water sport activities. We can organise an Amazing Race-style challenge around the resort using the inflatable water park for a team-building activity or a kayak safari. Land-driven activities such as quad bike excursions can also be arranged.

To showcase Fiji’s cultural heritage, we can organise a lunch at Tavuni Hill Fort. The 18th century fort is a historical Fijian monument overlooking the Sigatoka River and offers spectacular views.

A popular activity is a market tour of Sigatoka Valley, also known as the ‘salad bowl’ of Fiji, followed by a traditional Fijian cooking class back at the resort with our executive chef Rudolf Kunkel. MICE groups have also participated in Fijian music classes where delegates have the opportunity to play traditional instruments under the shade of a beach cabana.

TW: Tell us a little bit about F&B and your executive chefs and onsite restaurants?

CH: We’re firmly establishing ourselves as a top dining destination in Fiji. Executive chef Rudolf Kunkel and his team run six very different dining and bar concepts across the resort. For example, we give guests a taste of the Mediterranean with homemade pasta dishes and Italian cheeses at Golden Cowrie Coastal Italian led by Italian sous chef Bruno Bettinazzi. At the resort’s reimagined tiki bar called the Black Marlin Tropical Bar, the bar team serve up their own signature label rum, Yanuca Rum, which is locally distilled and only served to Black Marlin patrons. At Takali Asian Kitchen & Bar, guests can choose from over 40 craft gins from around the world. Lastly, guests of the adults-only Reef Wing can enjoy light fresh healthy dishes such as a silky tofu with almond ponzu dressing and fresh fruit smoothies made with fruit picked from our very own vegetable and spice garden.