Following a history of disputes between its staff and owner, the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Cairo underwent a series of turbulent changes on Tuesday evening, resulting in its abandonment by the managing company, according the Egyptian Hotel Association. As a result, the hotel will no longer be operating under the Grand Hyatt brand, or be allowed to use its name or logo for promotional or identification purposes.
The Hyatt company made its decision following several weeks of strikes by Grand Hyatt Cairo staff, who took to the street in front of the hotel, chanting and staging sit-ins. The workers’ list of demands included salary adjustments, profit shares, and contractual job security for all those who had been working on a month-to-month basis.
According to independent reports from the Egyptian Hotel Association, the Hyatt company repeatedly tried to settle the differences between the staff and the property owner, the Saudi Egyptian Touristic Development Company, urging the latter to adopt a more understanding approach to dealing with workers’ complaints. These requests were continuously disregarded, however, and tensions continued to escalate between the two sides. Eventually, the Hyatt company, wary of the hotel’s growing financial and managerial problems, pulled out of the operation.
Reports by the association indicate that the Saudi owner’s initial response was to shut down the hotel. However, upon hearing this news, the Ministry of Tourism contacted the Armed Forces and they agreed to forbid the owner from shutting down the hotel and adding to the country’s considerable unemployment problem. With the support of the Armed Forces, the Ministry of Tourism informed the owning company that if they chose to close the hotel, the ministry would take it over.
Further official action has yet to be taken by the Egyptian Hotel Association, which has its own problems to deal with following the dissolving of its board of directors on Tuesday evening. The dissolution is allegedly due to the fact that its members included a businessman who recently fled the country to escape corruption charges, and the wife of Ahmed Ezz, the steel tycoon and prominent National Democratic Party member currently behind bars and under investigation.
Despite the removal of the hotel from the Hyatt website, the hotel itself continues to operate under the same name as of Wednesday afternoon, with the hotel’s receptionists confirming that the property is still operating under the Hyatt brand. Al-Masry Al-Youm’s calls to the public relations department, however, repeatedly went unanswered.
This is not the first major controversy in the hotel’s relatively brief existence. Shortly after its opening ceremony in August 2003, the owning company, controlled by a Saudi businessman and relative to the royal family, prohibited the sale of alcohol on the property, turning the Cairo Grand Hyatt into what is known as a “dry hotel.”
Sources claim the owner got rid of the hotel’s stores of alcohol by pouring it into the sink, as selling it or giving it to any other person or establishment would be a violation of Islamic law. This decision, independently taken by the owner, was not in accordance with any previous contractual agreement with the Hyatt corporation. However, sources suggest the company tolerated the action due to the property’s ideal and highly desirable location on the banks of the Nile in downtown Cairo.