Hotels dodge Brunei boycott

SINGAPORE, 9 April 2019: A global travel firm halted Brunei Airlines ticket sales at the weekend lending support to the #Bruneiboycott campaign while at least four more hotels popped up on the radar owned by Brunei’s investment agency.

STA Travel offices in the UK, US and Australia tweeted at the weekend: “In protest at recent changes to the law in Brunei (also applicable on Brunei-registered aircraft and vessels), we’re proud to announce that STA Travel has stopped selling tickets on Royal Brunei Airlines.

‏The Financial Times reported Saturday: “Gary Donoghue, the founder of London-based boutique travel company All World Journeys, which has a ‘preferred partner’ relationship with the Hotel Eden in Rome, said he would be advising clients against booking any of the Dorchester hotels.

“We have a number of business and leisure clients who are LGBQT+,” he said, adding that the ruling was “a slam against” the values of openness and hospitality in travel.”

Closer to home in the Asia-Pacific and off the radar, for now, four hotels have been identified that are financially linked to Brunei through the Brunei Investment Agency and its subsidiary Sejahtera Investments.

So far they have managed to dodge the attention of boycott campaigners unlike the nine properties of Dorchester Collection in the US and Europe.

That changed at the weekend when Australian media identified Brisbane’s Royal on the Park as being owned by Sejahtera One (Australia), which is part of the Brunei Investment Agency. 

Sejahtera One has just a single shareholder, Brunei Investment Agency, which is Brunei’s sovereign wealth fund with an estimated worth of USD40 billion.

Three hotels in Southeast Asia — two in Singapore and one in Bali — are according to independent reports owned by BIA through Sejahtera Investments or another subsidiary Borneo Properties.

According to the 2017 Directory of Registered Star Hotels in Bali, Nusa Dua Beach Resort and Spa, in Bali Indonesia, is owned and operated by Sejahtera Indoco PT, the Indonesian subsidiary of BIA.

Royal Plaza on Scotts and the Grand Hyatt Singapore are owned by Sejahtera Investments and Borneo Properties both subsidiaries of the Brunei Investment Agency.

Although Grand Hyatt Singapore is managed by Hyatt, registration details confirm the property’s owning company is Borneo Properties. Other documents accessible on the Internet confirm Borneo Properties is a unit of BIA. (See link at close of this report).

Sejahtera Investments has its registered office in the Royal Plaza on Scotts building and the hotel’s management in response to an email from TTR Weekly confirmed Sajahtera Investments (Singapore) Pte Limited is the owning company.

It was one of the Sultan’s first investments in the hotel industry, originally branded Holiday Inn when it opened in 1974. Today it is owned and managed directly by Sejahtera Investments.

Both hotels are popular choices for tourists from Australia and Europe who want to stay close to Orchard Road.

TTR Weekly sent emails to all three hotels seeking further clarification on ownership and whether ownership changes might have been made since 2018 that were not updated in the public information space. Nusa Dua Beach Resort has not responded at this time but Grand Hyatt Singapore issued an email statement this morning.

Hyatt’s regional vice president marketing communications, Karen Chung, confirmed in the email to TTR Weekly early this morning (9 April) the hotel is owned by Borneo Properties and managed by Hyatt.

“At Hyatt…We value and respect diversity and hold a deep respect for individual beliefs, rights and customs of the people and the communities in which our hotels operate.

“In 2018, Hyatt underscored its company-wide support for the LGBTI community by signing on to the United Nations LGBTI Standards of Conduct for Business and affirmed our commitment to support several core standards of conduct to protect LGBTI people around the globe from discrimination.”

#Bruneiboycott campaign gained considerable momentum this week when London Transport pulled advertising across all of its transport options that promoted Brunei and its national airline as an “abode of peace.”

Major companies, such as Deutsche Bank, have removed the Brunei-owned hotels as options for staff travel.

According to the Independent Newspaper, “The University of Aberdeen and King’s College London have already confirmed they are reviewing the honorary degrees they have given to the sultan, while 40,000 people have signed a petition calling on the University of Oxford, which gave him an honorary diploma in 1993, to follow suit.”

The boycott got underway 31 March when Brunei announced harsh penalties under Syariah law including stoning for same-sex offences as well as adultery.

Launched by actor George Clooney and supported by Elton John the campaign initially focused on boycotting nine hotels owned by BIA under the Dorchester Collection brand.

Nine luxury hotels

The Dorchester, London, UK
The Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills, USA
Plaza Athénée, Paris, France
Le Meurice, Paris, France
Principe di Savoia, Milan, Italy
Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles, USA
Coworth Park, Ascot, UK
45 Park Lane, London, UK
Hotel Eden, Rome, Italy

The social media accounts of the nine Brunei-owned hotels have since been deleted or made inaccessible to stem the flood of negative posts.

The backlash against the hotel chain also forced TripAdvisor to close reviews for the hotels on its platform following a spike in negative posts.

However, the boycott widened from hotels to include Royal Brunei Airlines when it became apparent that harsh anti-gay legislation could apply passengers once they boarded the national airline.

It flies to London and Melbourne and many of its passengers fly between the two cities with a stop in Brunei to change planes.

Homosexuality has been illegal in Brunei since the country was a British colony, but the new law makes it punishable by death by stoning for gay sex and extramarital affairs.

Measured and rational comments on social media point out that the campaign is not targeting the country’s right to introduce Syariah law, but rather the harsh penalties for sex offences such as stoning, canning and for theft amputation of a foot or hand that are out of context with commonly accepted human rights in today’s world.

Not a single travel company, hotel booking site, international hotel group or travel association in Asia has come out in support of the #bruneiboycott campaign.

(Reported updated 0800, 9 April with Grand Hyatt Singapore email statement)

EMIS company profiles 
https://www.emis.com/php/company-profile/SG/Borneo_Properties_Sdn_Bhd_en_2314521.html

Registered Star rated hotels in Bali 2017

Star Hotels – Bali Provincial Tourism Service

1 COMMENT

  1. Odd that no one is going after Lufthansa Tecknik for managing the Sultan’s private aircraft. Lufthansa’s ethics statement supposedly takes it cue from the UN declaration of human rights

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