A Journey Back to the 1930s with Movenpick Hotels Except It’s 2015!

UPDATE, 15/Jul/2015: I have received an official apology from the hotel management as well as the members of staff involved in the debacle.

The hotel has stated that they welcome each and every guest to their establishment and do not have any racial or gender discrimination policies. Read more HERE. Thank you for your support!

hotel in dubai apologises for racial profiling of visitorI remember when I was a kid, I watched movies like Mississippi Burning and Malcolm X and felt so traumatised by it.

I just couldn’t understand why human beings would behave so horribly to people because they look different.

In the end, I would console myself with the thought, “Well that was in the 50s and 60s. Thank God we know better now and the world has become a much better place.”

Talk about naive and rose-tinted glasses…

Last night, I found myself smack dab in the middle of what felt like the 1930s when I walked into the West Beach Bistro & Sports Lounge in Movenpick Hotel, Dubai with my friend.

My friend recently concluded her MA and is moving back to New York so we went out to celebrate. We walked into the bar, sighted a seat for 2 and sat down. While waiting, a waitress walked up to our table, saw us and went back, basically refusing to serve us.

After another 5 mins of waiting, a security guard walked up to us and the following happened over the next 10 minutes – we were told the bar doesn’t allow unaccompanied women in; we were told they wouldn’t serve us and we had to leave and we began to feel very uncomfortable and things started to get loud.

By this point, I was inclined to call the police.

After the security guard made his announcements, we pointed out there were several tables with women only and no one was asking them to leave.

His response was he didn’t know what to tell us. This is what the “management” told him.

So I asked him, “Who is this person in management? Give me his name and explain to me why we have to leave because we don’t have a male companion and why you are not asking the other ladies to leave even though they don’t have a male companion?”

He started getting into himself and then a manager walked up. By this time, I already had a pretty good idea of what was going on. The manager also started mumbling something about “management policy.”

My question to him then was, “If it’s management policy that unaccompanied women aren’t allowed in the bar, why are there two tables nearby full of women and no one is asking them to leave. I am left to conclude it’s either because we’re black or you think we’re up to no good because we’re black. So which is it?”

He mumbled some more. At this point, I produced my business card and slid it across the table and his face contorted in panic as it dawned on him they had racially profiled the wrong people. The phrase, “oh shit,” escaped his pie hole before he could stop himself.

He then decided to make it worse by telling us some black women had come in earlier and approached patrons and made them uncomfortable.

That’s why the security guard asked us to leave. Well people, you read it here first. A few black women up to no good walked into Movenpick Hotel in JBR. Therefore, by default, all other black women on the planet are up to no good.

I queried further, “By this logic, this means if a few white/purple/red women who are up to no good walk in here and make patrons uncomfortable, you will then proceed to assume all other white/purple/red women on the planet are up to no good and turn all of them out of your bar?”

That would be one seriously empty bar since 95% of the patrons at the time we were there were all white.

Moving on, they tried to bribe us with free stuff but that really didn’t make any difference and isn’t the point.

They got scared because they made the mistake of profiling women who stood up to them. How many other black women before us had they run out of the bar who didn’t speak up because they were scared and/or uncomfortable?

This isn’t 1930. This is 2015. You cannot walk up to random black women and tell them you will not serve them and they need to leave a bar because they are black, irrespective of whatever racial demons are fighting for attention in your head.

Sometime during the evening, I asked the other ladies seated at the next table if they were asked to leave when they came in and they said they weren’t.

Unfortunately, the hideousness that was this night wasn’t over yet. When we left, we went to the front office and asked to speak to the Duty Manager.

Instead, they trotted out a lady, whose primary interest seemed to be getting us out of the hotel and burying the incident ASAP rather than understanding, addressing or resolving the situation. She also seemed to think saying, “Obama is the president of USA,” would make everything okay.

I asked this lady for the Duty Manager & GM’s email addresses so I can lodge a formal complaint and she refused to provide it.

You would think the email addresses was in a triple-sealed file located in a vault in Area 57 and not something anyone with half a brain can locate for themselves with a little detective work. This lady was patronising and condescending to say the least.

I have lived in the Middle East for 10 years and I have never been treated or addressed in such a despicable and disrespectful manner.

For someone to assume my friend and I are up to no good just because we are black is unacceptable.

I am completely flabbergasted that in 2015, the policy of an international well-known chain is to not allow people into their bars because of the colour of their skin. Is racial and gender discrimination part of Movenpick Hotel’s management policy?

Dubai is an amazing and open place that makes it possible for people from everywhere to live here and I just find it mind-boggling that this happened in such a place.

I had a look at the Movenpick Group website and part of their promise to their customers is, “We invite people to enjoy just special moments with us: at home, on the move or on holidays,” and “Being allowed to spoil people is our passion.”

My friend and I received neither of these things. Don’t just talk about it. Be about it!

It is my every hope that one day everyone in the world will see a man and judge him based on his integrity and the strength of his character rather than the colour of his skin or which part of the world he is from.

Until that time though, we must stand up against establishments that treat people this way. It’s 2015, we need to do better!

Despite all I have written above, my rose-tinted glasses haven’t fallen off completely. They are still dangling at the tip of my nose; holding on for dear life and hellbent on seeing the good in everything. I will therefore give the hotel the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe, just maybe, this isn’t a “management policy” and the bar manager and the security guard just arbitrarily decided on their own to turn out black people that walk into the bar but guess what, you guys are on notice.

I expect better from Movenpick and the people they hire to represent their brand.

Are loyalty retention and positive word of mouth not part of your brand policy?

I have written a comprehensive email to the Duty Manager and GM this morning giving them a chance to rectify the situation. I will be updating this post over the next few days.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing – Edmund Burke.

In conclusion, I leave you with this powerful video from Coca Cola Arabia commemorating Ramadan. Labels are for cans, not people. #removelabels.

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4 thoughts on “A Journey Back to the 1930s with Movenpick Hotels Except It’s 2015!”

  1. Wow Anna! I am just now reading this and its hard to believe that you would experience something like this today! What was harder for me to believe was that they admitted what was happening. How dare they! I am proud that you have written this and shared this experience with the world! I have to add that the video you posted is so fitting and brought tears to my eyes. Powerful! I feel honored to have you as a friend! Big hug, Vimari

    • Thanks a lot for your tremendous support Vimari. I was very shocked too and it took me a long time to wrap my head around it. It was like a movie except it was happening in real life. There are several people involved in this now and the management is working on addressing the situation. I will update this post again in a few days! Thanks!


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