Lang’s legacy lives on at Kokomo Private Island Fiji

LATTE chats exclusively with Sharon Byrne, DOSM

Two months after the sudden passing of billionaire Sydney property developer Lang Walker AO, the team behind his “passion project” – Kokomo Private Island Fiji – are committed to achieving his goal of being the best island resort in the world.

“Lang’s vision was redefine the concept of luxury and create the #1 private island in the world,” says Sharon Byrne, Director of Sales & Marketing at Kokomo Private Island Fiji. Speaking exclusively with LATTE at the recent Virtuoso Forum AU/NZ in Bangkok, Byrne said Walker’s target was set in October 2022, noting “We are well on our way”.

We’ve had quite a few triumphs and a list of awards under our belt since, with the island’s latest recognition being featured on the Condé Nast Traveler Gold List for 2024. That was huge as there are only 68 hotels on the list globally,” Byrne said.

The Condé Nast Traveler Gold List 2024 featured properties including The Dorchester, London; Eden Rock, St Barths; Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid; Ritz Paris; Soneva Jani, Manadhoo and Amanpuri, Phuket.

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Lang left us with the message that his vision is now our reality. The team is very committed to reaching goals that we set ourselves.”

Byrne explains that she and Walker discussed setting a goal for Kokomo when he’d shared his backstory of the project years before.

Kokomo Private Island Fiji was built by Lang’s Walker Corporation, better known for its earthmoving and civil engineering business rather than property development.

Walker had been sailing his yacht in Fiji’s Great Astrolabe Reef in 2010 when he came across the abandoned project on Yauvuke Levu Island. The project had initially been earmarked for an Aman resort. Some 18 months later, Walker owned the island and began planning Kokomo.

Walker and his wife, Sue, were avid sailors and would sail around Europe each year, returning home with “500 photos of ideas he observed and liked” which could be incorporated into the design of his Kokomo project. The finished product is a resort that caters for all markets, with generational families at the heart.

“Lang’s design has enabled us to cater for the multigen market, which is probably our sweet spot. We also host an array of honeymooners, anniversary celebrators, divers, and families with young kids.”

“We’ve had honeymooners on the island in school holidays which I was a little concerned about, but the resort was designed with the pool and kids club in the middle of the island, and all the villas are on the flanks and the residences down another end, so there’s a whole bunch of privacy for everyone. Kokomo is designed to cater for everyone.”

“We are currently enhancing many of our rooms at the moment. We’re converting some of the Villas to two-bedrooms, adjoining, and converting some of the one-bedrooms to three-bedrooms because we’re noticing this need for families,” she continued.

“We are starting to see the plans that he wanted put in place, which he shared with myself and the team, are coming to fruition.”

“Lang’s vision is to continue to grow and elevate experiences on property,” Byrne says, noting that his attention

to detail was something she’d never experienced before. “He would spot changes that were needed while flying in,” she says. A prime ingredient in Kokomo Private Island Fiji’s ‘secret sauce’ are the staff.

“One of the things that has made us unique is the Kokomo family. Most of our staff have been with us since 2015 and they’re still with us. That’s special because they come from the surrounding villages. Where we are located there are no other resorts down there.”

“So we’ve got the family. The resort and its people get your soul.”

“It’s our people, the culture, and the authenticity in everything they do. For us to become the best of the best and number one, it’s a team effort.”

“The feedback I receive from advisors and those who have done incentives is that the experience on island was taken to another level to what they had expected,” she enthuses.

Byrne tells LATTE she was thrilled that senior executive’s attending the Forum in Bangkok from Virtuoso in the US “know about us too!”

Reflecting on the company and its achievements, Byrne says: “They are Walker Corp. They were not hoteliers. But they have become hoteliers, and now their passion project has become very global. Kokomo is now a hot destination.” 

“We’re more committed than ever for Lang to reach the goals he set us.”

This week's Kokomo Client Appreciation event in Sydney aboard Kokomo II

Another of Walker’s goals was for the mix of guests to reach a 50/50 ratio of Australians versus Americans.

“Just before Christmas I gave him an update and I told him ‘You’ll never believe it Lang‘, we’re at 54% Australian and 46% US and the rest of the world.”

Concluding, Byrne said “It’s business as usual at Kokomo. Lang’s legacy will continue. It will grow, it will be enhanced, but the passion project remains as Kokomo becomes a global resort.”

Meanwhile, Kokomo Private Island Fiji hosted a client appreciation event aboard Kokomo II on Sydney Harbour yesterday (Thursday 4 April 2024), with some 30 travel partners and advisors onboard.

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