Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Racist" hotel chain that turns locals away has changed its mind





African Safari Club, the downmarket hotel chain and tour operator, long associated with bad labour relations and terrible customer satisfaction, has finally caved in to shareholder pressure and opened the doors of its all-inclusives to locals. Previously, local people were not only not encouraged to visit ASC hotels in Kenya, but sometimes actively ejected from them. And guests were all but barred physically from leaving the hotel compounds to spend some money in the local community. For every satisfied ASC guest, there seems to have been at least one who as a result of his or her experience would never go to Kenya again.

Marketing the group to locals now is an insult to the host community.

If African Safari Club wanted to demonstrate its interest in the local market, it would:

1) start treating its local staff and suppliers according to international minimum standards. (If the company operated like it does in Kenya in the UK, it would be permanently fighting court orders and legal challenges by suppliers and staff.)

2) Then, it might want to plough some of its profits into a marketing campaign for a relaunched African Safari Club dedicated to fair trade and responsible tourism.

If it doesn't do that, the corrrosive effects of the negative PR from thousands of aggrieved customers, staff and suppliers is sure to ultimately bring the company down.

Photos: African Safari Club's deserted Crocodile Camp, outside Sala Gate, Tsavo East National Park Dec 2008 © Richard Trillo

4 comments:

  1. Racist my ass. In many tourist areas through the world they don't let locals stay because they usually trash the place or because they got kicked out of the last place and now seek a room to do the behavior that got them tossed in the first place and this usually means white people.

    If you ever owned a hotel you would know locals are your worst guests.

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  2. Thanks for those insights Chuck. In that case, I guess we can all be very happy that you don't own a hotel.

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  3. Hi,

    I believe ASC is far from the only company. I believe though this is besides racism about pure economics. First let me tell my story.

    Once upon a time in Belgium (about ten years ago) I went to a well known travel office (won't tell the name since I don't have prove black on white) to book a hotel on the Kenyan coast for me and my local Kenyan girlfriend (currently married with eachother for about 7 years and two sons). Promptly I got the answer "the policy of the hotels does not allow locals". Totally disgusted I left. Once in Kenya we (my girlfriend, her three sisters and myself) booked a bungalow next to the hotel without any problems.

    My reflections afterwards on all of this. Don't underestimate the xenofobic, racist, fearful and small minded average tourist. Too many locals in the hotel would be very bad for the business with what I believe to be those very profitable and numerous target tourists (the xenofobic, racist, fearful and small minded average tourist). So those tourist offices are very much themselves enforcing those policies for economic reasons (long live Western hypocrisy).

    In my story the following is very plausible to me. My local Kenyan girlfriend (as other local women) are by default considered as prostitutes.

    Or they will be considered troublemakers when they indeed make trouble about being treated as a prostitute by a tourist. Anyway the profitable tourist of course gets the advantage from the hotel since he's paying the bill. It reminds me of a very interesting article title: "Kenyan protitutes actually want to get married." In fact it are some tourists that make some Kenyan women to be labelled as protitutes (long live Western hypocrisy).

    http://www.dongo.org/kenya-belgium/list_01/kenyan_shanzu_belgian_bavegem.html
    http://www.tumia.org/en/directory/en/kenya_p1.html

    Kind regards,

    Paka Small

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  4. Thanks Paka. Thankfully, as far as ASC are concerned, these questions are now theoretical, as they went bust earlier this year:

    http://theroughguidetokenya.blogspot.com/2011/03/african-safari-club-has-finally-ceased.html

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