It’s hard to believe that in this day and age, we still regularly read about people getting treated poorly because of their background. In the U.S., there are a variety of groups – we all know who they are – who tend to be the victims of discrimination or persecution due to race, sexual orientation, religion, etc. In other countries, people who fit some of the same demographics suffer through similar circumstances, as do people who fit into other groups. Case in point…
Pontins is a British company that runs a chain of a half dozen resorts (they call them “holiday parks” – “holiday” is the UK word for “vacation”) in the UK. They offer walks, beaches, amusements, leisure activities and entertainment. It’s been around since 1946 and has changed hands several times since the late 70s. The chain is currently owned by Britannia Hotels (which has, by the way, been ranked the worst chain in the U.K. for 8 years running).
Pontins apparently had a memo on its intranet labeled “Undesirable Guests.” The memo, which was circulated throughout the company, contained a list of roughly 40 Irish surnames (i.e. Boyle, Gallagher, McMahon, Murphy, O’Brien, etc.). According to the Irish Times, staff who handled bookings were specifically instructed to not make reservations for potential customers with those last names, or to cancel bookings made by people who had Irish accents.
“Please be aware that several guests are unwelcome at Pontins,” stated the memo. “However, some of these will still try and book – especially during school holidays. We have been informed by our Operations Director that we do not want these guests on our parks. Please watch out for the following names for any future bookings.”
Many of the surnames on the list are those used by a group known as Irish Travellers (Travelers).
Irish Travelers (sometimes known as Pavees or Mincéirs) are a nomadic indigenous ethnic group that is a recognized ethnic minority in Britain. They’re similar to, but ethnically distinct from, Gypsy or Roma people, but are often subject to the same prejudices that Romani frequently face.
After a whistleblower made them aware of the situation in early 2020, Pontins was investigated by the U.K.’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). They found that the chain was, “directly discriminating on the basis of race,” and had breached the U.K.’s Equality Act of 2010 (Gypsy/Traveler communities are a protected racial group under the Equality Act).
Following the investigation, Britannia Hotel Group agreed they were not acting in accordance with the law. They signed an agreement with the EHRC, promising that they will no longer partake in this practice, will conduct an internal investigation to see where the list and rules came from, and will provide more training for their staff about diversity and equality.
The EHRC will continue to monitor the situation for the next year.
Feature Photo: Picpedia via Alpha Stock Images
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary