Date of Passing:
The following Obituary for Roy Whitton appeared in The Age on
09 May 2009
Pioneer played key role in attracting the world to ‘bula bula’ islands
ROY FREDERICK WHITTON OAM
TOURISM PIONEER, FIJI
9.3.1918 - 1.3.2009
By RHONDA WHITTON (niece of Roy Whitton)
Roy Whitton, a visionary expatriate who played a leading role in the development of tourism in Fiji and community health, has died at his home at Vuda, on the main island of Viti Levu. He was almost 91.
Roy, who moved to Fiji from Australia in 1965, was honoured by the governments of both countries for his efforts in community health and international relations, particularly as chairman of the Fiji orthopaedic training program now known as the Orthopaedic Outreach Fund.
Such was the esteem in which he was held that his funeral service was attended by the paramount chief of the Burebasaga Confederacy, Na Marama Tui Dreken, Ro Temumu Kepa, as well as the country’s former vice president, Ratu Ione Madraiwiwi.
The Australian government awarded Roy the Order of Australia in 1996 for his work at Lautoka Hospital.
Roy was born at Williamstown in Melbourne, one of six children. He left school early to help on the family farm near Geelong, but it was soon apparent that he was ambitious and had other plans for his life. He joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1939 and served throughout World War ll.
After the war he joined Qantas in Sydney as a traffic officer for the flying boats; later he was traffic manager at Sydney airport and was involved with the introduction of the airline’s worldwide central reservations system. In 1965 he was part of the Qantas team that took delivery of the airline’s first Boeing 707 aircraft.
Roy’s Qantas career culminated that year with his appointment as airport manager, Fiji. Soon after relocating to Nadi, Roy met and married Rose (Leikin Gock).
With Rose already working in the tourism industry, he saw the untapped potential for Fiji, and the dynamic husband-and-wife team set about offering tourists complete packages of accommodation, facilities, activities and entertainment.
Their vision for Fiji changed the face of that country’s tourism industry.
The Whittons introduced many firsts for Fiji: in 1967, they opened Fiji’s first restaurant/nightclub; three years later, he joined a partnership that developed the first international hotel. He also established the first drive-through bottle shop and free hotel shuttle bus from the airport.
Sightseeing tours, organised activities, road tours and rental cars all fuelled Whitton’s booming tourism empire. However, his biggest venture was supporting the company’s expansion into resort ownership and development. Roy was fond of saying, “Not bad for a lad who left school at 13”.
Roy died just eight days short of his 91st birthday. Coincidentally, his 92- year-old sister, Hazel Priestley, died 20 hours after her brother and they were buried on the same day - one in Fiji, one in Melbourne.
Whitton’s funeral service was traditionally Fijian, as was his burial at the nearby Balawa Cemetery.
The local church choir as well as a full gospel choir joined hundreds of mourners at the Lautoka Wesley Church and at the graveside.
From his first marriage, Roy is survived by his children Yvonne, Dianne, Rodney and Mark: he was also father to Tony and Rose.