By Mariam Mokhtar
Many industries, including the hospitality industry are suffering in these strained economic times, but the Hotel Seri Malaysia (HSM) Ipoh decided to shoot itself in the foot by cancelling an event, at the last minute.
The hotel cancelled an event, in which the PKR deputy president, and MB of Selangor, Azmin Ali, would attend. The chairman of the HSM's board of directors, Aziz Sheikh Fadzir, denied suggestions that the board had a say in the cancellation or that the move was politically motivated.
Aziz stressed that the decision to cancel, was made entirely by the management and said, "The Hotel Seri Malaysia Ipoh management decided, on its own, about the cancellation after finding out, at the last minute, that Azmin Ali would be attending and was worried that if the programme was a political ceramah, it would embroil the hotel in a controversy and tarnish its name.
"Therefore, on behalf of the Hotel Seri Malaysia network, I would like to express regret and apologise over the misunderstanding that happened between the Hotel Seri Malaysia Ipoh management and the organiser of the event." (sic)
The closed-door meeting with Perak PKR had to be relocated, and Azmin complained that the management had been pressured to cancel the event.
Aziz denied this and said, "I would like to inform that the board of directors have never interfered in the day-to-day management of Hotel Seri Malaysia, including on bookings and other related matters. (sic)
"The incident also had nothing to do with political pressure from any quarters." (sic)
He insisted that HSM has never discriminated against PKR, but he claimed that, on this occasion, the hotel management feared that a political event would tarnish its reputation.
For the past five years, PKR has held events at HSM, without violating any of the hotel's policies. What made this event different? Was it because the Selangor MB would be present? How would the event tarnish the hotel's reputation, especially as this was a closed-door event?
The reaction from the public was understandable. They expressed shock at the summary cancellation of the event, by HSM.
The Perak PKR secretary, Abdul Yunus Jamahari, claimed that they were not informed of the cancellation until the night before the event. No valid explanation was given and he said, "About 10pm last night, our representative received a call stating that due to instructions from the hotel management, the booking has to be cancelled.
"This is unprofessional. (The hotel) should not treat the Selangor Menteri Besar this way. I feel ashamed."
An employee of HSM, who declined to be named, said that the order to cancel the event booking, had come from their headquarters, and he said, "I cannot comment, you need to ask my head office, because the instruction came from the head office".
The HSM network is owned by the Ministry of Finance Incorporated and HSM's chairman, Aziz, is also the Umno-Baru MP for Kulim Bandar Baru. Passing the blame to the Ipoh HSM manager is outrageous and unacceptable.
One event organiser said, "Usually, a hotel would ask for details about an event to be held at the venue, so for Aziz to claim that there had been no pressure from the board is unconvincing.
"Moreover, the organisers would have booked the venue in advance, and for the board to instruct the manager to cancel at the last minute, would upset the Ipoh staff, because they will be put in a bad light."
One local person, who arranges accommodation, in Ipoh, for various groups said, "HSM's reputation was not great, to start with. For them to cancel an event at the last minute, will only drive people away”.
A visitor to Ipoh, said, "The location is convenient, as I have to be close to the centre of Ipoh for work. I just need somewhere to sleep. HSM is not fantastic, and I would avoid it, if I had to go to Ipoh, on a private visit."
One Ipohite said, "The chairman has just shown how not to run a hotel. What are the hotel's priorities? The customer or the political masters?"
Another local said, "Would Umno-Baru be allowed to hold an event at HSM, or would the chairman dare to suggest that the reputation of the hotel would be tarnished? Isn't the board of HSM just playing politics?"
A couple who run a homestay said, "Money is money. What is wrong with the colour of PKR's money? A customer, who brings in money, is still a valued customer. The HSM chairman is very shortsighted."
Reports on social media, about the attitude of the HSM board, have gone viral. Talk about boycotting HSM is rife. Others say that they will avoid this budget hotel, because it favours the playing of politics, over customer service.
The general public is aware of what goes on, and do not need politicians or their cronies to pull the wool over their eyes. Appointing politicians to the board of directors does not auger well for the business. Instead of attending to the needs of the customer, political appointees will only bend over backwards to please their political bosses.
Last month, a number of hotels were in the news for the wrong reasons. The hijab banning hotel scandal has caused accusations to be made about religious discrimination in the workplace and violations of women's rights.
An Ipohite said, "The cancellation is an attempt to remove our democratic right to question our politicians. This is in direct contravention of the Constitution."
This last minute cancellation, by the HSM Ipoh, only serves to anger the public, who will vote with their feet.
What is the reaction of the Tourism and Culture Minister, Nazri Aziz?