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Politics + Economics = Boycott at Hyatt Hotel

biz_maverickSan Diego businessman Doug Manchester decided to put his money where his politics are: $125,000 to support Prop. 8, a California initiative to ban same-sex marriage. The only problem was that Manchester is also owner of the Manchester Grand Hyatt and The Grand del Mar, both hotels catering to upscale travelers and conventions.

So when gay and lesbian groups found out he was a supporter of the ban, they started a successful boycott of both properties. The boycott, which lined the streets of both hotels, was successful in encouraging the American Association of Law Schools and the San Diego County pension board to move events elsewhere.

Manchester said no problem. He told the Wall Street Journal, "We have received support from those that are in favor of Prop. 8, which has made up for some of what is being lost as a result of the boycott."

In reality, his CFO wrote in an e-mail obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune that the hotels were losing millions because of the boycott, and that "nearly every other luxury hotel in California is actively seeking out and marketing to the gay community to get their business. . . . We should be doing the same."

Hyatt Corp. apparently agreed and immediately distanced itself from Manchester, saying it was an inclusive organization and that "Doug no way speaks for Hyatt."

boycottManchester is also known for philanthropic donations, including $5 million donated to alma mater San Diego State University and tens of millions to the University of San Diego. But because of his political views he can now be sued by his investors for losing precious convention revenue. (According to a news report last week, hotel rooms normally selling for $238 a night at the Grand Hyatt are going for $95 on Priceline.)

We now live in an information age where everything about you is broadcast on the Internet. Even political contributions won't be absent from the radar, especially over contentious issues like civil rights. So it's a good time for travel-industry execs of all stripes not just to think before they speak, but perhaps also before they donate.

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