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DoubleTree by Hilton scrambles to repair image after black guest is removed in Oregon

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The lobby of the Doubletree by Hilton in Portland, Ore., where an African American guest was accused of trespassing. The guest said he was targeted because of his race. Two employees have been fired over the incident.
(Doubletree by Hilton)

A recent incident at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Portland, Ore., has put one of the nation’s largest hospitality companies in damage-repair mode to quell a controversy before it hurts the business’ bottom line.

In December, an African American man who was staying at the hotel was talking on his cellphone in the lobby when a hotel employee accused him of trespassing and called local police to remove the man.

The incident made national news, illustrated by video that the guest, Jermaine Massey, captured on his phone while he was being told to leave. Massey accused the hotel of targeting him because of his race.

Hilton Hotels & Resorts, one of the world’s largest hospitality companies, issued a statement through its DoubleTree by Hilton Twitter account saying the hotel brand has “zero tolerance for racism.” It said the independent operator of the Portland hotel had fired two employees “involved in the mistreatment of Mr. Massey and is working with Diversity & Inclusion experts.”

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The damage could be substantial if business travel managers decide to stop booking employees in that hotel chain.

DoubleTree was among the top 10 hotel brands named on business expense reports in the third quarter of 2018, according to Certify, a travel and expense report-processing company based in Portland, Maine.

Dan Hill, chief executive of Hill Impact, a crisis management firm in Washington, D.C., said companies embroiled in such scandals must demonstrate to the public that they are reexamining their mission statements and company culture if they hope to repair the damage.

“There is no quick fix,” he said. “There is no tweet or statement they can put out to fix this. It’s going to take time and consistent action.”

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Judging by the thousands of angry comments posted on Twitter about the hotel, Hill is right.

“@Marriott I’m ready to be in committed relationship with you and you only,” a woman from Washington, D.C., wrote on Twitter, referring to Hilton’s rival, Marriott International. “@HiltonHotels, it’s over, forever.”

hugo.martin@latimes.com

To read more about the travel and tourism industries, follow @hugomartin on Twitter.


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