[Credit: Pontins]

Pontins “undesirables” blacklist condemned by tourism industry

UK: A blacklist allegedly circulated by holiday park operator Pontins, which appears to highlight “undesirable” guest surnames of people of Irish descent who should not book with the company, has been condemned by travel and hospitality industry leaders.

As reported initially in the i newspaper, the list included name such as Gallagher, Boyle, McGuinness and more of Irish descent; surnames with which the operator had allegedly prevented bookings.

It reads: “We do not want these guests on our parks. Please watch out for the following names for ANY future bookings.”

“Several guests are unwelcome at Pontins, however some of these will still try and book – especially in the school holidays,” it added.

[Credit: i news]

Upon hearing the news, Downing Street called the Pontins list “completely unacceptable”, before a spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson labelled it as “anti-Traveller discrimination”.

The list was first uncovered by a whistleblower who reported the issue to the Equality and Human Rights Commission [EHRC] back in February 2020. They also revealed the firm had monitored calls in its contact centre and refused reservations made by people with an Irish accent or surname in order to exclude Gypsies and Travellers staying in its properties.

The EHRC said the practices employed by Pontins were tantamount to to racial discrimination and were in violation of the Equality Act 2010. It has now been reported that the holiday park operator has signed a legally binding agreement to prevent all forms of discrimination across its business from now on.

A Downing Street spokesperson added: “It’s right that the Equality and Human Rights Commission investigate and address this particular problem of anti-traveller discrimination,” they added.

EHRC executive director Alastair Pringle told The Guardian: “It is hard not to draw comparisons with an undesirable guests list and the signs displayed in hotel windows 50 years ago, explicitly barring Irish people and black people.

“Banning people from services based on their race is discrimination and is unlawful. To say that such policies are outdated is an understatement.

“It is right to challenge such practices and any business that believes this is acceptable should think again before they find themselves facing legal action,” he added.

Deborah Heather, director of Quality in Tourism, said: “This is a flagrant breaking of equality rules, and representative of behaviours of some of the worst actors in our industry. It amazes me how these operators have failed to recognise how behaving responsibly and ethically can have a positive impact on their business, including their bottom line.

“The shareholders and their representatives are thinking only in the short term; asset stripping with no strategy towards the longevity of the business and their ongoing reputation. A business should manage any potential issues with guests through clear and transparent terms and conditions, which should be applied across the whole of its customer base,” she added.

Damian Sheridan, director of The Book Direct Show, said: “The Pontins whistle-blower story highlights a toxic and rarely-reported underbelly of the accommodation and hospitality industries – deep-seated prejudice. Like many others, I’m appalled at this shameful discrimination [my own surname was on the blacklist], but perhaps even more sadly, I’m not completely surprised.

“‘Blacklisting’ a guest based on a name may sound incredible to some reading this. The truth is that people suffer this shameful experience every day but can do little about it.

“Can you imagine how it feels to have a simple accommodation booking request rejected clearly on the basis of a name, skin colour, race, disability or perceived sexuality? From personal experience, I can tell you it’s a demoralising experience and many thousands of travellers and guests from round the world will concur.

“This happens day-in day-out but is rarely documented, simply because there is no proof to draw upon.

“Hats off to the Pontins whistleblower. However, moving forward, we need more property managers to come together and display their unified support for inclusive accommodation on their websites,” he added.

Founded in 1946 by Fred Pontin, Pontins specialises in offering half-board and self-catering holidays across the six holiday parks it operates in the UK. The firm has been owned by Britannia Hotels since 2011.

Britannia Jinky Jersey Ltd said it had “agreed to work together with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to further enhance its staff training and procedures in order to further promote equality throughout its business”.

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