Fukuoka city chides Hilton hotel after Cuban diplomats refused in line with U.S. sanctions but contrary to Japanese law

Kyodo

The Fukuoka Municipal Government has issued administrative guidance to a Hilton hotel in the city after it refused to accommodate a group of Cuban diplomats, including the Cuban ambassador to Japan, in October because the United States government has imposed economic sanctions on the country, it was learned Wednesday.

Japanese law prohibits denial of lodgings based on a guest’s nationality.

“We were complying (with) American law as we are an American company,” Hilton officials said, acknowledging that service was refused.

A travel agency in Tokyo that booked the hotel for the diplomats said it received a phone call from Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk in Fukuoka’s Chuo Ward on Oct. 2, the day the group was supposed to stay at the hotel. The hotel said Cuban Ambassador Carlos Miguel Pereira and embassy officials would not be able to stay at the facility, the agency said.

The agency said it also received a notification from the hotel a few days later stating that “guests representing the Cuban government cannot be accommodated.”

According to the Cuban Embassy, the diplomats were visiting Fukuoka to meet Cuban baseball players who are members the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.

Japan’s law regulating hotel operations states that guests cannot be refused unless they carry an infectious disease or are suspected of committing illegal activities. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry pointed out that denying accommodation based on nationality is against the law.

“The hotels operating domestically must comply with the law,” the ministry said.

“We refuse to provide service to officials of the government or state-owned enterprises of countries under U.S. economic sanctions such as North Korea, Iran and Syria,” a Hilton spokesperson said. “We would like to discuss about the matter internally in response to the guidance.”