The owners of a Rarotonga holiday home have apologised to Kiwi guest Bridie Henderson after pressure from Cook Islands Tourism – but other guests say they too are owed apologies.
Susanna and Robert Wigmore sought to claim damages of between $780 and $1495 from various guests, whom they claimed left their Kaireva Beach House messy or damaged.
Henderson, from Wellington, told Cook Islands News she was grateful to the Tourism Corporation for taking their complaint seriously. "I find the apology hard to reconcile with the dishonest and exaggerated statements made by the owners of Kaireva about us to the media; but I have no ill feelings towards them at this point.
"Hopefully they have learnt from this experience and it will prevent any future guests going through this."
The Wigmores told different guests they were "dirty", "drunk", "liars", and their child would be "punched in the face".
Susanna Wigmore wrote an email to Henderson after they departed their holiday home, demanding payment for cleaning services for the mess she said the family left behind.
Henderson disputed the claim and forwarded the email to Cook Islands Tourism for further advice – and they backed the tourists, telling the Wigmores their behaviour was unacceptable and they could lose their accreditation.
Wigmore's TripAdvisor apology to Henderson reads: "Yes, it is true that I called you 'The Dirtiest Guest of All Times' in a private email and that we didn't mean to charge you with the 'implemented prize' of $780 for cleaning 12 hours' x 2 people and the repair of the damages."
She added: "I accept that giving you this 'Award' is not a professional communication between host and guest. Sorry for that."
Wigmore acknowledged that the house's swimming pool was not fenced – "as you can see in the pictures" – and neither was the beach.
"We wish you have a happy holiday when you come back to our little paradise. Kia Manuia, Susanna."
But another family, the Grimes from the USA, said they too wanted an apology from the Wigmores, who accused them of leaving their three-year-old unsupervised while they drunk 24-7.
They too were angry at cleaning fees sought by the Wigmores. "We were shafted for $800+ USD just to bring our foster child," said Darin Grimes. "If that were refunded as a gesture of goodwill we might find a way toward forgiveness."
Another American couple, Patrick and Rachel Perry, were told their son's behaviour was destructive and someone would punch him in the face. They said last night they were not holding their breath for an apology.
"I am hoping that they have learned some valuable business lessons, and more importantly, hoping that future travelers will not have to have the same experience," Patrick Perry said.
Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council accreditation committee has investigated the disputes involving Kaireva Beach House.
Chief executive Halatoa Fua issued a statement yesterday, saying the Kaireva owners had acknowledged their communications with guests were unsatisfactory and had apologised to Henderson.
Fua said the owners of Kaireva have been counselled on maintaining professionalism and integrity with guests at all times and advised that if any further issues arise their accreditation status may be revoked.
"Cook Islanders are renowned for their warm welcome, friendliness and hospitality, this is an unfortunate and isolated incident, which does not reflect the experience of most visitors to our beautiful islands," said Fua.
Robert Wigmore declined to make any further comment, yesterday.