Kokomo (Fiji), that’s where we wanna go

GM Sean Flakelar reveals ultra-luxe resort's not-so 'secret sauce'

Kokomo Private Island Fiji has cited trade partnerships with the likes of Virtuoso and American Express Centurion as “big producers” for the ultra-luxury resort, where demand has boomed since the pandemic. Located a 45-minute float plane flight from Nadi, the property is comprised of 21 Beachfront Villas (ranging from one- to three-bedrooms) and five Residences (from three- to six-bedrooms).

Sean Flakelar, GM of Kokomo Private Island says since reopening on 1 December 2021 – when Fiji’s border reopened to international tourism following the COVID pause – the remote resort has been able to maintain solid bookings.

He said Komoko’s strategy to roll over reservations each year of the pandemic had maintained guest support and loyalty.

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“We kept the bookings from 2019, ’20, ’21 rolling over, keeping the majority of those guests. We didn’t force customers. We were flexible with our terms. We didn’t demand final payment and kept the bookings rolling,” Flakelar told LATTE at the recent Virtuoso AU/NZ Forum.

“Even now, we’re still getting some of those bookings coming through, but a lot of the business is forward,” he said.

Australia is Kokomo’s number one source, at nearly two-thirds of transactions. The US is an increasing market, accounting for about 25%, with 5-8% from New Zealand. February just passed also saw the first Europeans back to the island destination with Swiss, Germans and Austrians beginning to trickle through.

Faulkner says the US market is trending upwards, with Americans taking advantage of the favourable exchange rate.

“Australia remains our core market. Family, millennials, retired couples, honeymooners… we see a lot of honeymooners from the [United] States,” he adds.

“We are starting to push into new markets,” he said, telling LATTE green shoots are expected to come from Canada on the back of Fiji Airways’ new direct route between Nadi and Vancouver. Flakelar is also forecasting feed from Latin America, via LATAM’s flights through New Zealand, and combination itineraries to New Zealand and/or Australia.

The average length of stay is 6.5 to 7 nights, and the repeat rate is a modest 20-22%.

Incentives groups are back on the books, including a “big one” this month, Flakelar says, and group business is rising.

Booking lead time is all over the shop, he explains to LATTE. “It can be really short, whereas school holidays is six months out, festive even longer. Shoulder months can be shorter, predominantly 2-3 months. Short notice can be bookings as soon as next week,” he says.

After a bumper 2022 season, this year was a “little bit slower” in February and March, but Easter, May and June are all strong months for business.

Flakelar himself started out in the industry as an apprentice chef and morphed into a luxury hospitality specialist (he accrued nearly 20 years with Aman as GM in several properties) and landed the role with Kokomo in early 2021 after meeting with Australia owner and property tycoon, Lang Walker. He says the appeal of Kokomo Private Island is the remote location, the pristine environment, the well-appointed rooms and the quality of the build from the ground up. During the pandemic, the property also underwent a renovation of the rooms, central bar and wine cellar.

“But the key to Kokomo is the staff,” Flakelar said. “It’s the service, it’s the Fijian people who are very hospitable and incredibly friendly.”

“They’re not just watching the kids. They are engaged and they’re involved, and I think that makes a big difference. There’s a feeling at Kokomo that it is run like a beautiful home,” he enthused.

In the lead-up and post-Virtuoso AU/NZ Forum, Kokomo hosted a number of key travel partners.

Lead image: At the post-Virtuoso Forum cocktail party at Kokomo Private Island Fiji, back row from left, are: Gary Reichenberg, Connections Group; Edwina Douglas-Menzies, Wentworth Travel; Mike Dwyer, Main Beach Travel; Andrew Jackson, Aurora Travel; Kellie and

Among Kokomo's pre-Virtuoso AUNZ Forum visitors were Travel Associates' Rachel Kingswell, Jo Kennedy and Danielle Galloway with Sharon Byrne, Kokomo.

Michael Londregan, Virtuoso and David Goldman, Goldman Travel.

Front row: Caryn Reichenberg, Connections Group; Kelly Gelfand, Tribe Travel; Judy Tanner, Aurora Travel; Sean Flakelar, Kokomo Private Island; Anna McMurtrie, Wentworth Travel; Katey Matthews, Kokomo Private Island; Mandy Dwyer, Main Beach Travel; Emma Whiting, Emma Whiting Travel and Heather Crossingham, Kokomo Private Island. 

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