Calls for a boycott of the Dorchester Collection's 10 hotels, over its owner's links to the rulers of Brunei, have affected bookings, the firm has said.
The hotel group, which runs 10 properties around the world, including three in Britain, is currently the focus of a worldwide boycott by several prominent celebrities over its ties to the sultanate of Brunei, which recently imposed a series of harsh new Islamic laws that increase the punishment for homosexuality from a 10-year prison sentence to death by stoning.
The Dorchester Collection is owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, an arm of Brunei’s finance ministry.
This week Sir Richard Branson became the latest to lend his support to the boycott; other notable backers include Ellen DeGeneres and Jay Leno, the American chat-show hosts, and Stephen Fry.
Sir Richard tweeted that "No @Virgin employee, nor our family, will stay at Dorchester Hotels until the Sultan abides by basic human rights."
But Christopher Cowdray, chief executive of Dorchester Collection, today released a statement touting the firm’s “core values of integrity, equality and diversity”, adding that “European companies across the board are funded by foreign investment, including Sovereign Wealth Funds.”
“While we recognise people’s concerns, we believe this boycott should not be directed to our hotels and dedicated employees,” he said.
“The economic impact of this not only affects our loyal team members but extends to the local community, our valued partners and suppliers.
“Today’s global economy needs to be placed in a broader perspective. Most of us are not aware of the investors behind the brands that have become an integral part of our everyday life, from the petrol we put in our cars, to the clothes we wear, to the way we use social media, and to the hotels we frequent. Our reputation, which has been built on service and integrity, speaks for itself. We do not tolerate any form of discrimination, we never have and we never will. Our policies are far removed from the politics of ownership.”
A spokeswoman for the Dorchester Collection admitted that the boycott had led to a drop bookings.
The company’s three British hotels are The Dorchester and 45 Park Lane – both in London – and Coworth Park near Ascot.
It also owns The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles and Le Meurice in Paris.
Four more travel boycotts
SeaWorld - The Whale and Dolphin Conservation has led a recent campaign against theme parks such as SeaWorld over their treatment of animals. Tour operators, including Virgin Holidays, have been urged to stop selling trips to the attractions.
Botswana - Survival International, which campaigns for the rights of indigenous tribal peoples, has long criticised the Botswana government for its treatment of the country's Bushmen. Its calls for travellers to boycott Botswana have had a limited impact, but last year several tour operators lent their support.
Maldives - An online campaign urging tourists to boycott the Maldives received the backing of more than two million people last year. It followed the sentencing of a 15-year-old rape victim to 100 lashes for premarital sex. Other groups called for travellers to steer clear of the tourism-dependent archipelago after former president Mohamed Nasheed, the country's first democratically-elected leader, was overthrown in February 2012.
Burma - For many years travellers were told by campaign groups to leave Burma off their itineraries, due to the oppression of its people by the military junta. That changed in 2009 when Aung San Suu Kyi dropped her opposition to tourism to Burma.
The Telegraph, London