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Breathing new life into an old facility

Saturday 18 March 2023 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Business, Local, National, Travel


Breathing new life into an old facility
Tish Mete is part of the team who have given Club Raro a facelift. PHOTO: AL WILLIAMS/ 23031717

Club Raro on Rarotonga has received a facelift in recent weeks as part of a combined effort to breathe new life into a facility constructed in the 1970s. Couple Tish and Owen Mete have been behind the two-month project.

Tish and Owen Mete have 46 years of experience in managing and operating resorts between them.   

They spent six years in Fiji, 12 years in Vanuatu, two years in Tasmania and two years in Alice Springs.

They were shoulder tapped to undertake a face lift and rebrand at Club Raro under the umbrella of the Edgewater group.

Owen as chief engineer, also overseeing a redevelopment at the Edgewater Resort and Spa, and Tish as general manager at Club Raro.

The couple landed on Rarotonga in February 2022 to “have a look”.

They then relocated here in July.

“We have done quite a few projects, reopenings and renovations,” Tish says.

“We were asked to take on the project and we asked them what the plans were.”

Tish says she has a long background in hospitality.

“I love people.

“For Club Raro, it has a fantastic heart but it needed love.

“It has a massive history, it opened in the 1970s as a resort and some of the original stuff is here.”

Some of that stuff included items of furniture which have been refurbished and repurposed as part of the facelift.

The couple have previously visited Rarotonga, she came here as an exchange student during her years at teachers’ college.

“It takes a certain type of person to live in the islands.

“You have to understand the priorities of locals; we are in their world . . . they are not in ours.”

Tish says respect is probably the key word.

Meanwhile, after landing in July, they looked at what needed done.

“It was tired,” Tish says.

“Everyone knows it was very tired and needed some TLC (tender loving care).”

However, it was still important to recognise its history, she says.

Prior to Covid-19, the inside bar had been closed, so they set about bringing it back to life.

Then there was the exterior tiling.

All up, more than 100 tonnes of rock, soil and concrete was removed from the site, Owen says.

What started out a six-week project expanded to two months as things were added to the original plan. 

Tish says the project cost would have been in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Owen says it should have been a 12-week project, “but it was eight”.

“We were lucky we had good people on board (local crews),” he says. 

“It was bloody awesome; there’s nothing like a challenge.”

His only recommendation to anyone wanting to undertake such a challenge would be “have all your ducks in a row and all your materials in the country”. 

Tish continues, “While we uprooted all the tiling, it started on January 16, all the tiles came up . . . they were old.” 

The swimming pool was gutted.

All the tiles were removed and the pool bar extended to accommodate a remodelled paddling pool.

Its new design will be in line with a rebranding to an adults’ only resort from May 1, 2023.

“Club Raro needs its own identity,” Tish says.

“Edgewater is family friendly and they have all the facilities.” 

She says there is a market for a three-star resort, a “good quality three-star adults only resort”.

A wall was removed from the seaside end of the restaurant to offer indoor/outdoor flow and take advantage of the sea views.

Every plant in the complex was removed in a reconfiguration of the gardens to accommodate more room outside the rooms.

The pool bar was turned into a sand bar. 

The front entrance of the complex was tiled and the lobby remodelled.

A new function hut was erected to accommodate weddings, massage services and dining options for groups.

The configuration of rooms hasn’t changed but amenities have been updated.

All 39 staff were kept on.

“They became painters and gardeners, we had so much fun,” Tish says.

“We officially opened on Monday but our big opening is on May 5.”

It’s been a significant investment, Tish says.

“We believe in Club Raro, our location is fantastic.

“We are very much into supporting local; we haven’t brought in an overseas company.

“We have repurposed and everything is locally based; even our food and beverage is local.”

Going forward, Tish wants to be more eco focussed.

“It’s about being a bit more conscious of what we are doing.”