Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs has in an exclusive interview told this press that he will not retract or apologize to Mammy Yoko Radisson Blu Hotel, which West Africa Holdings Ltd. was contracted to manage.
This comes following local media reports quoting the Minister as saying that “Radisson Blu is Not a Five Star Hotel”.
In a lengthy presentation of his ministry’s status update to the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Tourism and Cultural Affairs on Friday 10th June 2016, Minister of Tourism Sidi Yayah Tunis said that capacity, standard and services of hotels need to be looked at for the growth of the tourism and hospitality industry, if not, it will have a negative impact on the country’s tourism revival.
Sidi Yayah Tunis said: “for example Radisson Blu is classified as Class One, which means it is commensurate to a five star hotel. Mr. Chairman, Honorable Members, you can agree with me that Radisson Blu is nowhere close to attaining a five star status, so as a result we have a hotel charging 5 Star status prices for services that are not up to 5 Star status. These are some of the challenges that are making it very difficult for tourists to choose our country with all our numerous touristic attractions compared to other countries.”
Radisson Blu however described the Minister’s statement as “wrongly labeled”.
In a press statement, Radisson Blu said: “It is against this background that we believe that the Minister has either been ill advised and badly briefed at least, or economical with the truth and guilty of misleading Parliament at the worst! It is on these bases that we require the Minister both apologizes for his statement to Parliament and retract his statement.”
In his response to the demand of Radisson Blu, Minister Tunis said that he has been ‘misunderstood,’ but urged journalists to do their investigation.
“First of all, I have never targeted Radisson Blu specifically, my statement was generalized that we found out that hotels are very expensive in Sierra Leone and we want to make sure that the rate that hotels are charging is commensurate to the services that they are delivering to the people.
The facilities that should be available that rates the hotels’ stars should be available but as it is now the way the hotels have been classified is confusing because some hotels that are classifies as class one, which I was told is commensurate to five star, don’t have all of the facilities for five star, those were my statements,” the Minister explained stressing that this was the reason why he told Parliament that there is a need for reclassification of hotels.
The Minster agreed that he indeed cited an example with Radisson Blu and was asked for the standards that hotels including Radios Blu are falling short of.
He said hotels must have pools, massage, and other things that are not available in some of the hotels. He said: “all I am saying is that we should do all that we can to provide international standard services. The classification we are using here is not the star classification but I am saying the classification must match international standard for tourist satisfaction. This is what I am trying to get at, not that I am picking on Radisson Blu as they are portraying.
Yes, Radisson Blu is the premier hotel and best we have for now in the country but they must also be able to match up with international standards.”
He also clarified that he did mentioned Youth Affairs Ministry to collaborate with his ministry by going out with questionnaire on a survey to see the services that are available in hotels, guest houses and restaurants since they don’t have the staff capacity in the Tourism ministry.
However, when asked if he will apologize and retract his comments as demanded by Radisson Blu he said ‘no’ because his comments have been taken out of context and misunderstood.
“It is not like I am trying to downplay or badmouth any particular institution, my statement was for the entire industry,” Minister Tunis said echoing that: “I don’t need to apologize, because Radisson Blu seems to have misunderstood my statement, so until they get my statement correctly; there is no need for apology and retraction.
What I said in Parliament did not contravene what I believe in, and so, I don’t think there is any need for me to retract or apologize.”
He nonetheless said there is a need for stakeholders to hang heads for clear understanding and progression of the tourism sector to meet international standards.