IT was the 1960s and an exciting time in the history of Fiji. For it was then that tourism – now the mainstay of the Fiji economy – first began to bloom. Kanti Tappoo, now chairman of the Tappoo Group, was energetic, hardworking and passionate about the land of his birth. He recognised the potential that tourism had for Fiji’s development and the good that it could do for the country.

It was then that the eldest of seven brothers steered his father’s jewellery and drapery business in the tourism direction.

“My father needed help and he just took over. He started the duty-free segment for the company and really steered us in that right direction,” says Tappoo chief executive Madhu Tappoo – the youngest of the seven sons.

“Kanti ventured into duty free recognising the potential it had for Fiji. At that time tourists were beginning to come in, the Fijian Hotel went up around the late 60s and Kanti moved us that way. So he’s been passionate about tourism for a very long time.”

Last week, that lifetime commitment to excellence in tourism was recognised – with Kanti Tappoo being awarded the Lifetime Achiever award.

The citation reads: The Award is for an individual that has made great achievements in establishing tourism business as well as contributing to community development.

The AON Excellence in Tourism Awards recognised that Kanti Tappoo had engineered the tourism focus for Tappoo Duty Free and the Tappoo Group of Companies. He took his father’s small family business – set up in August 1941 in Sigatoka – and grew it to a group that now employs more than 1000 people all over Fiji.

The company has more than 50 retail stores engineered towards tourism, and has other investments spread throughout the tourism value chain

“Now a Fiji icon, Tappoo have shops in Sigatoka, Nadi and Suva with a new multi storey building in Suva under construction,” the citation reads.

“They have shops at Nadi International Airport and in hotels and resorts around the country. The company diversified into supply of wines, Pepsi and other beverages to hotels/resorts and are now into the hotel business in partnership with the Accor Group.”

“The company is also very involved in community projects in Sigatoka, scholarships and water projects.”

Tappoo has a knack of recognising potential in the industry, investing in the Mercure Hotel in Nadi which last week won the Accommodation Quality award. Tappoo also has interest in the Novotel Hotel in Nadi.

And after all these years of growth and development, the Tappoo Group that Kanti Tappoo has used to help tourism bloom continues to make inroads for the industry.

At the AON Excellence in Tourism awards, they also picked up award for General Tourism Services including Shopping. This award was because Tappoo continues to set the standard in shopping in Fiji, retailing and distributing local as well as international brands in a high-quality manner. The Group’s Fiji Market concept is geared to add value to the tourist’s shopping experience, enhancing the Fiji brand.

So what’s the motivation? For Kanti and the Tappoo Group, it continues to be a search for excellence, pride in the country and giving back to the community as well.

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