After controversies this year about groups that have held events at Hyatt properties, Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian told Skift,
If a group is primarily focused on disparaging a group by virtue of their identity…that’s really where we need to draw the line. We’re going to apply our values to making these decisions along the way.
How does he define what constitutes “disparaging a group by virtue of their identity?” And what does it mean to be primarily focused on doing this? Hyatt meeting planners don’t merely have to divine animus towards a group identity, they also need to determine whether a group happens to be hateful, or whether that hate is their focus.
The fact that there is no clear standard here is underscored by the fact that they’re going to “mak[e] these decisions along the way.”
Earlier this month there was controversy over Hyatt’s hosting the ACT for America conference in Northern Virginia. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls them “an anti-Muslim extremist and hate group.”
Their Executive Director used to work for the Christian Coalition and the organization is generally pro-Trump and lobbies against the use of foreign (Sharia) law in U.S. courts. Would they be excluded under this new policy? By the way Hoplamazian himself just met with President Trump.
What about the event Hyatt was criticized for hosting earlier this summer held by the Muslim Congress at the Hyatt Regency Orlando? They hosted a speaker that Jewish groups call a holocaust denier. I’ve defended Hyatt when groups like this held meetings at their properties. Will Hyatt now deem the Muslim Congress unacceptable, or say it’s ok because there are other people speaking also and it’s not their primary purpose?
- Will groups be vetted prior to signing meeting contracts?
- Will groups have to have their speakers lists approved by Hyatt in advance?
- If Hyatt later determines that their ‘values’ are inconsistent with those of an organization holding a meeting will the chain abrogate the contract?
- They assure us this isn’t very many groups, but which ones? Will that list change in the future?
Hyatt says they care for people so they can be their best but only some people who agree with them? They say everyone matters, but only people who agree with them? Everyone doesn’t include people Hyatt doesn’t think believes that everyone matters?
Dan Peltier writes in Skift that “[t]he move follows similar stances by other hospitality groups, including Marriott last year.” However Marriott’s CEO actually made a stand for not picking and choosing conference groups based on the views held by those groups
The fact they are having a meeting with us and using our hotel does not mean we support their point of view. If I could wave a magic wand, I’d love to have it so that those types of groups never exist.
…Do we really want, as a society, for companies like Marriott and the peers in our industry and others to sit and make judgments or points of view on people sitting in our meeting rooms? I shudder to think that we really expect that my role or Marriott’s role is to say your views are not acceptable in our hotels and that another person’s views are..
We are serving people from all around the world, from all walks of life, with all points of views, equally and with a genuine welcome, with people who are equally diverse. Our arms need to be open.
Freedom of speech only means something if it protects the speech you hate. There’s no need to protect popular speech.
Hyatt isn’t government, this isn’t a first amendment issue and I think they should have the right to choose whom they work with and host for conferences (even if they cannot decide for themselves whom to bake a cake for). At the same time I think the first amendment model is useful in terms of whether to criticize someone for offering a platform or speaking venue.
Even Nazis should be able to hold meetings. And we should criticize them whenever and wherever they express their views. Simply shutting down their expression can easily backfire in terms of sympathy and making groups more cohesive since they feel under attack.
People increasingly want to shout down their opponents and deny them a voice, rather than countering that voice. That seems unwise to me.