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The location is just brilliant: Hospo veteran finds his tropical paradise

Saturday 26 November 2022 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Features, Go Local

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The location is just brilliant: Hospo veteran finds his tropical paradise
New Aro’a Beachside Inn and Shipwreck Hut owner Al Unsworth, second left, with family members, from left, Brenda Urwin, Kyla Unsworth and Gail Keepa. Unsworth says his new business is in a perfect location. PHOTO: AL WILLIAMS/22112402

Aro’a Beachside Inn and its beachside restaurant Shipwreck Hut are getting a makeover after a visiting Kiwi fell in love with the place.

Al Unsworth has 35 years’ experience in hospitality, and has bought and sold several establishments in New Zealand during his time in this business.

He saw an opportunity at Aro’a Beachside Inn when he was visiting Rarotonga with friends earlier this year, and set about making enquiries.

Unsworth had just sold the Matata Hotel near Whakatane and didn’t have any plans.

“I saw the Aro’a for sale and said to my girlfriend at the time, ‘let’s go and have a look at it, see if we can add some value to it’.”

As soon as he stepped on to the property and was halfway along the path to the beachside, Unsworth had at least half a dozen ideas for the place.

It was April.

He flew back to Rarotonga in June, stayed at Aro’a Beachside Inn, and carried out due diligence – a detailed examination of the operation before becoming involved in a business arrangement.

That involved a building report – six buildings in all.

By October he was back on Rarotonga and had bought the business.

“We’ve just built another two rooms, and we’re putting in another room so an extra three rooms.”

Unsworth said he is also installing a swimming pool at the complex and adding air conditioning units in each of the guest rooms.

“The location is just brilliant,” he said.

“When I came back in June and did due diligence, I looked at the information and I could see the potential.”

The beachside restaurant and bar, Shipwreck Hut is also getting an overhaul with an upgrade of kitchen facilities, new menu and new operating hours. 

The operation employs 10 staff, all local, and all of them have been retained.

Unsworth said uncertainty in the financial markets did not faze him.

“I think the economy will come back, it might be 12 months or 18 months.

“Someone will pick the flights up.”

In terms of hospitality, after 35 years in the business, Unsworth said it was all about treating people right and looking after people.

“Also good food, and good vibes.

“I like challenges, the location is superb, and I always wanted a spot on a tropical island.

“I will be here for a while I think, the longer I stay here, the more I don’t want to go home.

“It’s like being in 70s and 80s New Zealand.”