Kuki's by the Harbour opens up in Savai'i
People traveling to the big island of Savai'i for pleasure and work can now add "Kuki's by the Harbour" to their list of accommodation options to choose from.
It is located at Salelologa opposite the renowned "Tui ma Masi Restaurant" with just a five minute walk from the wharf.
While the name of the place and facilities are new, the owner and Manager of Kuki's by the Harbour is no stranger in the industry.
Leota Matamua "Kuki" Retzlaff, better known as Kuki, used to manage and operate one of the first hotels in the Itu-o-Tane, Le Lagoto Resort.
And while the coronavirus pandemic slowed the process of building the project to what it is now, it did not stop Leota from achieving his dream. According to Leota, planning for this project started over a year ago.
"We had old units in this area, and the original plan was to renovate those units. But I changed my mind and decided to demolish those units and build new fales and greater facilities up to that high standard but the Covid-19 pandemic kind of dragged our project.
"As you may have been aware, I am the founder Le Lagoto Resort, we made Le Lagoto to what it is right now.
"So when I decided to work on this project, I thought I'd come up with something better. I realised that more and more people now have the desire to come to Savai'i for relaxation because it is the most beautiful island in Samoa."
Asked about what motivated him to do such a project, Leota said he has always had a heart for the development of tourism.
Nevertheless, he articulated that his family and ancestors were heavily involved with the development of tourism in Savai'i from the beginning.
"This is something I love to do," Leota replied with a smile.
"I love hosting people and getting to meet and know people from all around the world, and from different walks of life.
"There is always satisfaction and joy when you host people and create memories with them. And it's not just that, I get to meet all these different people from all over the world and learn from their experiences and build connections with them and that has been something I've enjoyed over the years.
"But I guess it is also something that I inherited from my ancestors. My grandmother, Piliopo Nelson Retzlaff, she was one of the first people to start a traveling agent in Samoa, and it was called Retzlaff travel. So I guess you can say that it runs in the blood.
"I've done other businesses and tried to stay away from it, but somehow, I always find myself thinking about different ways I can do to develop the tourism industry, especially in Savai'i.
"My heart and passion are with the development of tourism. My parents also had apartments here at Salelologa back in the 90s called Ocean View Motels."
Moreover, Leota said this is just the first phase of his project. He is optimistic about the future of "Kuki's by the Harbour."
"This is the first phase of the project. Looking forward, we will demolish the two-storey building at the front and add more rooms. Four new false have been built.
"For now, we are targeting our local tourist and avail of our service for those who visit Savai'i and want to stay closer to where everything is, and most importantly, closer to the wharf.
"My daughter's cafe just across the road will soon open up to cater to the people who wish to stay here and then we will be able to provide room service for our guests.
"We are also looking at opening a bar and restaurant in the future, but we're taking everything step by step."
He went on to explain how the name of his accommodation came about.
"Going back to the history of the Le Lagoto, because I was always the one hosting people and because it was one of the first hotels to open up at Itu-o-Tane back in 1993. So from that time, I learned that instead of saying, 'Let's go to Le Lagoto,' people kept saying, "Let's go to Kuki,"
"Instead of saying Le Lagoto, they used the name Kuki. I realised that that's my brand. Wherever I go, people recognise me by the name Kuki, even though it is my nickname.
"And the location of this place is by the harbour, it is by the wharf. So I thought I'd name it "Kuki's by the Harbour".
"I've been in the industry since 1993, and people know me by that name. It's mostly, I just want to carry on that brand. Who knows maybe in the future I would get on to Kuki's tours or Kuki's travel or something like that. Just like Rosie Travels in Fiji, that company and agency has a long history and goes a long way."
The rates are from $250 a night for two people, according to Leota.
So why should people stay at Kuki's by the Harbour?
"It's more relaxing and there's a lot of things you can do from here," Leota said.
"It's like you're in the central part of Savai'i, and you can stay here and then decided whether you want to go Northwest or Southwest of Savai'i.
"It's convenient and closer to town. You don't have to travel a far distance when you get off the boat, you can relax here and enjoy the breathtaking view.
"It's like you're in town, but it doesn't feel like it because it's by the ocean, and instead of hearing all the noises of cars and people at Salelologa, the only thing you'll hear are the sound of the waves and the relaxing and refreshing sea breezes.
"I am positive that this will expand and grow.
"The target at the moment is our local tourist. Even though the industry is struggling because our borders are closed and we have no tourists, but for me, I think this is the perfect opportunity to build yourself up and get up to a high standard so that by the time borders open up again, we will be able to serve with the best we can offer.
"This has given us the opportunity to turn our dream into reality and to build something that will offer a place of relaxation not only for our local tourists but also for our visiting brothers and sisters.
"I am positive that this is just a beginning and we will not stop here. Our goal is to serve and host our people and make sure that they enjoy their stay and maybe make great memories and times here with us.
"I welcome everyone to come and stay with us."
Each fale has been fully furnished, with showers and air conditioning with a small deck at the front by the ocean.