Travel Giant Bans Uruguayan Eco-Hotel for ‘Discrimination’ Against Israeli Couple
A hostel in Uruguay that refused to honor the booking of an Israeli couple because of its owners’ objection “to the policy of your country” has had its listing removed by the world’s largest online travel companies.
Booking.com announced on Monday it was removing the Buena Vista hostel in the beachside resort of Valizas from its website, after confirming that the Israeli couple had been the victims of discrimination.
“As soon as we were made aware of this case, we immediately reached out to the customer, offered to cover the costs they incurred in finding an alternate place to stay, and have removed this property from our site,” a representative from Booking.com said, in response to a complaint against the hostel lodged by an international Jewish advocacy group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC.)
The couple — Israeli citizen Amit Bradush, 22, and his unnamed partner — received a message from the hotel owner, Mauricio Piñero, after they made their booking informing them that he had refunded their payment.
“I am very against the policy of your country and you are not welcome in my house,” Piñero — whose website carries a marijuana leaf symbol and advertises its vegetarian and eco-friendly lifestyle — told the Israelis on January 8.
In a separate Facebook post, Piñero denied being a “discriminator or an anti-Semite,” but added that the “kids who come after finishing military service in Israel have a profile of celebration, arrogance and things that are not good.”
Piñero was condemned by the Comite Central Israelita, Uruguay’s umbrella Jewish organization, and by Uruguay’s minister for tourism, who promised to “investigate” the incident.
“In Uruguay, it is not acceptable to discriminate on the grounds of religion,” Liliam Kechichian, the minister for tourism, said. “We hope that Israeli tourists will continue to visit Uruguay and enjoy the beauty of the country.”
The Israeli ambassador in Montevideo, Nina Ben Ami, said she hoped the incident was “an isolated case” of “blind prejudice.”
“It is an unpleasant case of discrimination against Israeli citizens, based solely on their identity,” Ben Ami said.
In today’s internet-driven travel economy, hoteliers and other accommodation owners who openly admit to discriminating against guests on the basis of religion, nationality, sexual orientation or similar personal status matters face potential ruin. In a widely-reported case in August 2017, a hotel in the Swiss Alps that restricted Jewish guests in their use of the swimming pool and kitchen facilities was abruptly removed from Booking.com’s platform after the first complaints were filed, with other online travel giants, including Priceline and Expedia, quickly following suit.