Bob and Patti Arthur built their hotel, The Village, more than 40 years ago on the island of Phonpei in the FSM well before independence. They are now having to leave.
Speaker: Bobi Arthur, operator of the The Village hotel
DORNEY: On a trip to the Federated States of Micronesia several years ago, I was told that my cameraman and I should spend a few nights in this hotel called The Village. It was a bit of a drive out of the capital, Kolonia, but it was in a superb location - on a tropical forested hill on a headland with magnificent views of the ocean. It was run by Bob and Patti Arthur who had moved to and invested in the FSM in 1969 when it was still a Trust Territory of the United States. They raised their family there. Over a somewhat scratchy phone line from Phonpei Bob Arthur told me it was all coming to an end.
ARTHUR: We came here a long time ago and had four kids in Phonpei, built a hotel which we think is the best in the Pacific - one of the few that has a thatched roof and an open air dining area. We looked forward to retiring sometime and having our son carry on. And it hasn't turned out to be that way.
DORNEY: Bob and Patti Arthur served their last meal in their restaurant at The Village last Sunday night. They had very good relations with the traditional landowners in the early years but in recent times a minority of the twenty-six landowners would not agree to an extension of their lease on the land on which they built The Village.
ARTHUR: It has all come together so that the land problems we've had, the lease problems we've had and the desire to go off and do our own thing somewhere else is probably taking over right now. We're at that point where we're old enough that we should have retired twenty years ago but somehow kept on going. The thing that we found is that many, many, many people have supported us in the work that we are doing and are sorry that we are leaving. There are good things about Phonpei but we're not going to be one of them.
DORNEY: The Arthurs hired their staff locally and supported a variety of local businesses.
ARTHUR: We have trained almost everybody in the food service industry during the last forty years. So I don't know how many people we have trained but I would guess four or five hundred. The people that we talk to say that, 'If it had not been for you we would never have been trained.'
DORNEY: But Bob Arthur does not want to be drawn into discussing what lies behind the non-renewal of their land lease.
ARTHUR: The main interest we have is in leaving the island with the least amount of bad feelings possible. We don't want to point fingers at people. Everybody in Phonpei, Micronesia and half the world, I think, knows about what's going on but it's very difficult for us to say things that would lead others to believe bad things. We're trying to leave without going down in flames.
DORNEY: Bob Arthur and his wife, Patti, are getting ready to leave their Pacific Island paradise in Phonpei that they've been calling home for forty-four years. Sean Dorney reporting for Pacific Beat.
BACKANNOUNCE: And if you want to see what The Village was like then it is still on the web with plenty of photos at