Continued hotel operations in Russia raise questions about liability
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is now in its sad third month, and media images of it are becoming increasingly alarming, so alarming that most of these images feature blurry areas to conceal the details. the most macabre.
My inbox keeps getting furious emails from contacts suggesting that the hospitality industry, among other industries, could do a lot more, most certainly to get out of Russia, but prefer to let it go each day, hoping that the problem be resolved.
A note I received came from a hotel consultant familiar with Russian hotel contracts, who asked to remain anonymous due to the very real threat of potential imprisonment.
I have known this person for almost a decade.
This author’s main criticism is that international hotel companies position themselves as somewhat different from other industries – retail, fast food, etc. – who more or less succeeded in their exit.
“What makes hospitality different from these other industries?” asked my correspondent.
“So far, we’ve seen fairly standardized and poorly thought out ‘talking points’ from all the major players in hospitality about how hospitality is ‘different’ from other businesses. first they shifted the blame (read, blame) to their Russian hotel owners claiming [the branded-hotel firms] don’t actually operate the hotels; we are just franchisors,” the email continues.
“Really? That’s not what it says on the very first page of their hotel management agreements,” he added.
According to the author, virtually all HMA contracts will contain very clear “non-interference” provisions providing that the operator of the mark has “the exclusive, uninterrupted and uninterrupted right and authority to direct and operate the hotel” and “without any interference from the owner.”
Moreover, the contracts almost always state that “any interference by the owner in the management of the hotel by the operator will be considered a material breach by the owner”.
It “feels like management,” the contact said.
If the hotel brands still plead their inability to do much, is it because they now fully admit that they do little management in this world with little heritage and that they only deal with marketing and brand image ?
“Doesn’t this concession, in itself, call for a reassessment of all HMA agreements given that brand operators admit they’re not really doing everything they say they are doing?” reflects the email.
The email also took umbrage at the suggestion that hotels provide a unique and necessary service to groups of customers who need accommodation in Russia when the Russian state is in an emergency.
The hole in this argument, the author of the email suggested, is that Russia is safe. It is Ukraine that is not.
In addition, he added, much of the foreign media are no longer in Russia, as are representatives of aid organizations and non-governmental offices.
Keeping a hotel open “can be very profitable, as long as your hotel is not in the bombing line. You just have to ask [hoteliers] in Belgrade, Sarajevo, Baghdad and elsewhere that remained open in war zones,” the email said.
“As if profitability were the measure of moral rectitude!” was the final and most damning statement from the author of the email.
From where I watch the European hotel industry on a daily basis, I do not hear a wave of disgust for the hotel companies that continue to operate in Russia.
Maybe future guests are just assuming that these hotels are closed, no one is coming to see them, and there are bigger things to worry about.
The media didn’t have a crisis either, it seems to me.
This remains the most moving topic since I started jotting down my thoughts and observations.
What will happen, a cynic would say, is that once the killings stop, there will be a tremendous sense of relief, the world will begin to heal, and travelers will eventually return to Russia.
It seems impossible at the moment to think that will happen, but of course it will.
I’m using Colombia as an example because I’ve been there three times and love the place, but who would have thought that in the 1980s and 1990s anyone would go there on their own?
But they do now.
Please tell me how you feel?
The idea of Hotel News Now’s blog and opinion pieces is to foster calm and reasoned debate.
As a journalist, I can ask a lot of open-ended questions without it being obvious which side of the fence I’m on.
The invasion in Ukraine, however, probably didn’t allow anyone to sit on the fence.
If you think hotels should stay open in Russia, are you on one side of the fence? I would love to hear from you.
The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of Hotel News Now or the CoStar Group and its affiliates. Bloggers posted on this site are free to express opinions which may be controversial, but our aim is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our community of readers. Feel free to contact an editor with any questions or concerns.
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