My Take on the Sheraton Snafu (and Official Reply from Marriott Corporation)

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock today, you’ve probably learned that the Sheraton Buganvilias (the name of Puerto Vallarta’s Sheraton) refused a gay couple the opportunity to celebrate their wedding on their premises, suggesting other local properties that are part of the Marriott International Inc. brand (the Westin and the Marriott in Marina Vallarta).

I’ve been following the story, first and foremost because I have received nothing but the best treatment at the Sheraton lately, particularly at their brand-new Nine Ninety 9 sports bar, which I reviewed favorably not too long ago. However, it so happens that I also wrote favorably about the restaurant in Gay Entertainment Directory, a US-based LGBT publication for which I am a local correspondent. In addition, I’m planning an event at the Marriott in two months that would be most likely attended by a fair amount of local LGBT folk.

My first reaction was to contact the Sheraton management via telephone. After all, it is very easy to let one’s emotions flare up in these type of situations, and I felt it was responsible to get both sides of the story before moving forward with a public comment or website post. In addition, I’d already read a bunch of rather incensed anti-Sheraton remarks on Facebook and Twitter and there is no need for things to get ugly/uglier.

Rodolfo Pacheco, General Manager for the Sheraton Buganvilias, did not take my call, and I can almost understand why. They must have been going nuts trying to control the damage created by his staff! When I asked for the name of their public relations person, I was told by his assistant, Viridiana, that they don’t have one. When they suggested returning my call, I said that I’d be glad to wait for someone to speak with me—my choice.

While I waited—33 minutes—I enjoyed an endless recording, in English and Spanish, of how the hotel welcomes everybody and how very friendly and inclusive they are. Every now Viridiana would come back on the phone to make sure I was still there. Repeatedly, she tried to get my number so they could return my call. Repeatedly, I said I was calling during office hours and had no problems waiting for someone to become available to speak with me. Also, I repeatedly asked for a PR person’s name, and she insisted they don’t have such a person.

Finally, I was provided with the email address for Kerstin Sachl, who is Senior Director, Public Relations at Marriott International. I asked if I should copy local management as a courtesy. Again, no specific information was given to me of local management.

I contacted her, requesting clarity regarding the corporation’s stance on this particular issue, as I wanted to know whether to cancel my tentative reservation and/or retract the article I had written for Gay Entertainment Directory.

In less than two hours, she wrote me back with the following reply:

Dear Paco,

Thank you for your email and for connecting with me on the regrettable experience we learned about this morning from Josh Rimer.
We are troubled and greatly concerned about this issue, as we believe that no one should ever feel like they are not welcome at one of our hotels. We responded swiftly and respectfully to Josh via telephone, expressing our apology, which he accepted, and are working with him and his fiancé now to pursue other venues, at his request.

In addition, we are looking further into the matter to better understand what happened and are focused on the events and training gaps that led to this experience, doing all we can to prevent hurtful experiences like this from happening again.

I hope the above clarifies Marriott International’s and Sheraton’s stance. If you do have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me further.

Kerstin

So I am at ease knowing that the corporation is moving swiftly to fix this particular situation, but it is too soon to learn whether they will take further actions to sensitize local staff to prevent future incidents along the same lines. And it is definitely too soon to know if the Sheraton Buganvilias will issue a public statement about this—something that in my opinion is crucial for the Sheraton to recover promptly in this tightly-knit, community that is Puerto Vallarta.

There are always two sides to a story, and it is important, from a journalistic point of view, to present both sides in a fair and well-researched way to allow for people to make an informed decision on their own. In the meantime, I am keeping my eyes and ears open to see how this situation unfolds, and whether the Sheraton Buganvilias issues a public statement.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think the Sheraton owes the Puerto Vallarta community a statement, or is it enough with them having apologized to the gay couple? Kindly answer the poll, below, or leave a comment!

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Image courtesy of Sheraton Buganvilias.

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