The world over, American companies are, often unfairly, labeled as having a tin ear for cultural nuances. Few US organizations, however, come close to being as insensitive to local mores as the Saudi owner of a Hyatt hotel in Cairo, Egypt who jettisoned his entire inventory of alcohol in the name of his religion. “Abdel Aziz Ibrahim, a member of the Saudi royal family and owner of the coveted luxury property that sits on a tongue of land at the edge of the Nile, decided to get rid of all the alcohol in stock. The sheikh ordered the 2,500 bottles of alcoholic beverages at the hotel to be flushed down the toilets, without providing any notice to the American hotel chain managing the property, Hyatt International. “$300,000 went into the sewers after this decision which totally violates Egypt’s hotel rules,” said Fathi Nur, president of the Egyptian Hotel Association”.
The Egyptian authorities and the Egypt Hotel Association evidently were none too pleased and reacted by dropping the number of stars for the hotel from five to two. Egypt’s Tourism Minister Zoheir Garranah noted “We have laws which regulate this industry.” Hotel rules dictate that any hotel above two stars must serve alcohol. An owner is also not allowed to interfere in the running of affairs when there is a managing company. Since in Egypt, tourism brings in 20 percent of foreign currency receipts, the swift response was a message to hotel owners, foreign and local, that personal preferences are fine so long as they are willing to bear the monetary consequences.