If you’ve been following either politics, religious news or hotel news you may have seen this story. It’s not often you can say those three things in the same sentence.
On May 1, 2014, the Sultan of Brunei revealed that he’d enforce the strict islamic code of punishment called sharia law. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who has an absolute monarchy, is one of the wealthiest men in the world. Some of that wealth comes from the tourism and hospitality industry in the form of hotel earnings.
The Dorchester Group of hotels is owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, the sovereign wealth fund of Brunei, which of course, the Sultan is ultimately responsible for as the absolute monarch. The Dorchester Group owns many hotels including the famed Dorchester Hotel in London, 45 Park Lane also in London, The Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air in LA.
Human rights groups have been protesting in front of the Beverly Hills Hotel and they were joined by TV personality and comedian, Jay Leno. Following protests the Dorchester Group CEO fired back. HIs statement was a bit…well…confusing. Christopher Cowdray, Dorchester CEO, said protesters “have the right to demonstrate, but please direct the demonstration to the formal channels. Lobby Washington. Why try and kill your local business?”
Lobby Washington? What does Washington have to do with this? The point of the protests is that every person has the right to support, or not support, businesses with owners whose beliefs you don’t agree with. Chick-fil-a anyone?
It’s great that people are voicing their opinions by protesting, but what will it really take to make an impact on the Sultan? The reality is that there’s probably nothing that would make a difference. He’s one of the wealthiest men in the world and putting a few, or all, of his hotels out of business wouldn’t make much of a dent in his wallet, his monarchy or his choice to enforce sharia law upon his citizens.
The way I see it, there are so many other options, why stay somewhere if you don’t agree with the company’s values and beliefs. What do you think? Would you stay at The Beverly Hills Hotel or another hotel in the Dorchester group?