Western hotel brands urged to leave Russia

Ukraine organisations urge western hotel brands to exit Russia

[Credit: Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash]

Ukraine: The Ukrainian Hotel & Resort Association (UHRA) and the State Agency for Tourism Development of Ukraine (SATD) have called on the major hotel chains to withdraw brands from Russia.

In an open letter, UHRA and SATD urged Hyatt, IHG, Hilton, Wyndham, Marriott, Radisson and Accor to stop supporting the Russian economy by ending operations in the country.

At the time of writing, UHRA and SATD had not heard back from Hyatt. IHG, Hilton and Wyndham have all acknowledged receipt of the letter, but not formally responded.

Marriott has replied, reportedly using the same language published in the company’s statement on Ukraine. 

President and CEO of Radisson, Federico J. González, replied that the group will “continue to monitor and evaluate” the situation.

Sébastien Bazin, chairman and CEO of Accor, replied stating the company has acted “in accordance with the sanctions adopted by the EU, UK and US governments”.

Some main extracts of the letter read as follows: 

“At what point do Accor, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, Radisson, Wyndham and the other international hotel operators stop giving western credence to Putin? For what reason do they continue to advance Russia’s economy and create tax revenues for his regime? Do they think for one minute those Russian tax revenues will go to rebuilding the theatre in Mariupol? Will those taxes support the multitude of physically and psychologically scarred Ukrainians who have lost parents or children? Will they assist tens of millions of refugees and internally displaced Ukrainians? 

“Of course, not; the Russian state is never benevolent; such altruism will come from the US and Europe, from kind donations and American and European taxpayers. The taxes the operators pay in Russia will help preserve Putin’s dictatorship and feed his internal repression and external greed for power. 

“The emerging markets of Eastern Europe, including Russia and Ukraine, were always a high political and reputational risk for hotel operators; in the main, they did exceptionally well, with relatively little financial risk or asset exposure; they returned significant profits from high room rates and high fees. 

“The wise hotel operators also entered the market with virtually watertight template contracts on which they gave little compromise on commercial terms and zero compromises on legal terms. When they have claimed for 30‐years to be able to deliver high‐level management, we are astonished to hear that some hotel operators suddenly only have arms‐length franchise/license agreements over which they have little or no control and therefore cannot leave Russia? 

“It is because the hotels have little or no asset position that it should be more accessible, not more challenging, to exit Russia, and we reject the claim that they are in line with actions taken by other industries. One only needs to look at the substantial asset sacrifices undertaken by McDonald’s, BP, and British American Tobacco. Are we to hold the fast food, oil ands gas, and tobacco industries to a higher ethical standard than hotels? If so, should we hoteliers worldwide question our esteem in being part of the hospitality industry?

“The time to act is now, not to pause until US/EU sanctions make action compulsory. It is time for the hotel operators to stand next to the people of Ukraine, the free world, the ethical and righteous, and make that courageous decision to leave the Russian market; history will thank them for it.” 

The letter was sent on behalf of Iryna Sidletka, president of UHRA, and Mariana Oleskiv, chairperson of SATD Ukraine.

BHN recently published a feature on the aftershocks of the Russia-Ukraine crisis in travel and hospitality. Read the full piece here.

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