The plight of businessman Jack Batchelor is a sad one. And having read about the impact of the recent unfavourable publicity on his business, it’s hard not to empathise with him.
Indeed, he is as much a victim of Taulima Lauititi’s thug-like behavior as the Australian couple affected – and every one else including this country which has somewhat become embroiled in the mess we have found ourselves in today.
Such, however, is the expected outcome when systems meant to ensure law and order are broken. But this piece is not about those systems. We believe we’ve said enough about what the government needs to do to change things for the better.
Today, we want to spare a thought for Mr. Batchelor. And in doing so, let’s not forget all those tourism accommodation providers – and tourism related businesses - who have inadvertently become victims of one man’s behavior. It is without a doubt one of the most painful aspects of this dilemma.
“I’ll be straight up front with you, this has killed my business,” Mr. Batchelor told the Sunday Samoan in a story titled “Forgotten Victims” published on the front page on Sunday.
“Since the Tree house has been in business, we were rated number one on Trip Advisor; we normally only got five star reviews. After that night the following reviews came in and with that one review we dropped down to number seven.
“We’re still going down. Since the first of the year, we have had over $73,000 in cancelation of bookings for the Treesort; that’s not counting my restaurant.
“We’ve actually had more cancelations this year than bookings; we’re just barely getting by and it’s not fair because we’re being treated like it was our fault.”
He has a point.
But there is more to this story than meets the eye. For Mr. Batchelor, the Tree House is not just any business.
“This was my retirement. I put everything I had in savings because when I first came here, my first resort was taken over by the tsunami. Something else happened to me when a person stole a foreign investment, a lot of money.
“My last chance is the tree house and I invested everything in the tree house.
“Things were going great until this rape; and this rape has ruined me.”
We accept that fortunes can change ever so quickly but this man really didn’t deserve this. Like most people, Mr. Batchelor expressed his sympathies to Angie Jackson and her husband for what happened on that fateful morning.
But he has a different take on questions about security at his property, saying that Tualima is the sort of criminal who cannot be stopped.
“If you see the tree house, its 40 feet off the ground. This man came at 2am, it’s totally dark, climbed over the top of that rift, and from the second story deck came down the outside pole.
“So he started out at 40ft off the ground and outside slid down to 30ft off the ground to the second floor, then he went through what no one is talking about, an open door.
“We have security when we have a lot of guests at the security house up above.
“That’s to keep people from coming down and to keep their privacy; at night time we have locks on all the doors and it’s high up off the ground.
“You hear my dog at the background, we have dogs who hear noise and do that (bark); they didn’t hear nothing that night; nothing would have stopped this man.
“He would have climbed over any fence just like the other resorts; he would have gone around when no one was around and jumped over the fence.
“Do you think a fence would be a problem for a guy who climbed up 40ft in a tree? No that’s not… is it harder to get into a tree house that’s off the ground than something that’s on the ground?”
Mr. Batchelor added that apart from Angie and Tom, all his other guests have never had any problems, security wise.
“I think my resort is very safe and if you ask any of my other guests; they feel safe here.”
Asked about the Prime Minister’s comments on 60 Minutes about the location of his property, he said: “You know what I like the Prime Minister. I don’t agree with what he said because I came to Samoa seven years ago; I found Samoa over 20 years ago and kept coming back on vacations because I felt safe here.
“I moved over and started this business as a semi-retirement and made the commitment so what he said I disagree with; Samoa is a safe place.”
“This is a dangerous criminal who escaped and did a lot of damage to tourism, Samoa’s reputation, our reputation and it hurt our business; so he’s hurt so many people. Sorry just doesn’t cut it.”
Lastly, Mr. Batchelor reiterated that Samoa is safe and his property is equally safe.
“Samoa is a very safe place to be. I moved here because the way it is; the people are very friendly, it’s not commercialized like the other islands; if you want to experience the South Pacific culture then this is the place to come.
“I love Samoa; that’s all I can say about that so please come and stay with us.”
Well we hear you Mr. Batchelor.
Your message is our message to the world as well today. Samoa remains beautiful and it is a place worth visiting for a unique experience. Certainly at the Lupesina Treesort, that’s precisely what it offers a very unique experience.
Bad things happen and what happened at Tiavi a year ago is something we don’t wish on anyone. But one bad experience cannot be allowed to ruin such a wonderful place. So go, don’t desert the Treesort. Visit Jack and the team up there and find out for yourself.