Friday, December 2, 2011

ICANN Apologizes to Senegal over inappropriate Hotel Complaint letter

ICANN has issued an apology over the letter it sent recently expressing its "deep disappointment at the quality of accommodation" provided to its ALAC delegates at the Hotel des Almadies. The letter was sent by ICANN VP in charge of Communications Barbara Clay along with a 20 page report(for which a policy was formulated to gather the complaints) on the conditions at the Almadies compiled by ICANN staff and sent to the Senegalese Minister Moustapha Guirassy documents in very great detail the conditions at the hotel including presences of insects, attitude of hotel staff to guest requests and many more.

According to the report, "Some guests almost came to blows with the hotel management and staff because of hotel's attitude and responses which defies comprehension". I think some of the "blank stares"  might have been due to language barriers as many Senegalese speak very little English. The report also talks of an extreme case where one of the delegates left the ICANN meeting when "after having rats in the room, also had the floor of the bathroom flooded with excrement (plumbing works) upon his return in the evening."!!

From ICANN report: Shower with walls covered in mold at the Almadies
 From the report, problems included broken staircases,broken windows that could not be closed, only 40% of the rooms had functioning toilets, non functioning telephone services and air conditioning in some of the rooms; light outs in main corridors and "delegates used the dim light of their mobile phone screen to make their way to their room.". 100 of the guests also felt a strong musty smell in rooms and common areas.

"The lack of the TV remote made the TV Unusable"
ICANN says these problems have contributed to the "unhappy memories" that ICANN delegates took away from Dakar. There are also complaints from ALAC members that of the 150 rooms reserved by ICANN at the prestigious L'Meridien Preident, only 6 went to ALAC members. L'Meridien President was the five star hotel hosting ICANN muckie mucks during the recently concluded ICANN meeting in Dakar.

Some of the descriptions in this report seem very extreme and exaggerated(I was not at the Hotel anyway so I can't pass judgement on that) but to send an angry letter to an ICT Minister on the conditions of a Hotel after the meeting has concluded seems disrespectful in my opinion and a lack of protocol. Why should a hosting Minister involved in the development of the ICT in the country be concerned with rats in the bathroom, of broken staircases! There were better and appropriate channels to direct such complaints. In fact, I think this letter should have been written to the offending hotel, the Hotel des Almadies!

In conclusion and in a desperate attempt at political correctness, the report states that it does not constitute an objection against holding ICANN meetings in "developing environments" but the point has already been made.

Here is the apology letter by ICANN's Barbara Anne Clay to Minister Moustapha Guirassy. Below it is the letter of outrage and "deep disappointment":

The Honorable Moustapha Guirassy
Minister of Communication
Telecommunications and ICT
Republic of Senegal
58 Boulevard de la Republique
Dakar, Senegal

Dear Minister Guirassy,

I am writing to offer profound apologies for my letter of 23 November 2011.

The letter was sent without appropriate clearance by ICANN's leadership and so it was not an official statement of ICANN's position.

ICANN's leadership, and indeed the entire ICANN community, deeply appreciate the generosity shown by Senegal in hosting our 42nd public meeting. ICANN's leadership - and I personally - truly regret any embarrassment or distress my letter may have caused you or the Government of Senegal.

I hope you will accept this sincere expression of regret.

Barbara Anne Clay

Dear Minister Guirassy,

On behalf of ICANN, I am writing to express our deep disappointment in the quality of the hotel accommodation provided by the Hotel des Almadies to 169 delegates attending ICANN's 42nd Public Meeting, held in Dakar on 24-28 October,2011.

The extremely poor quality of the Hotel and its services, noted in detail on the basis of our delegates' feedback, has damaged ICANN's reputation, as well as the reputation of the Hotel and Senegal.
ICANN wishes to lodge a formal complaint, in particular about the failure of the Hotel management to implement the improvements that they committed to make when, on behalf of our delegates, i met with Hotel management on Monday, 24 October 2011.

ICANN's decision to bring our conference to Senegal was based, in part, on the Hotel's pledge to renovate all of its rooms by the time our conference began.Nick Tomasso, ICANN's Senior Director, Meetings and Languages, visited Dakar in August 2011 and personally examined Hotel des Almadies. He was shown a number of rooms and received management's assurance that all rooms had renovated.

That proved to be untrue. The Hotel failed to renovate the rooms as had been promised. based on the information received, we believe less than one third had been renovated at the time of our conference, leaving many of our delegates to face the presence of insects and rodents, inadequate security, the failure of the most basic services such as toilets and air conditioners, and incidents of raw sewage in the bathrooms.

All of these problems and more have contributed to the unhappy memories of Senegal that our delegates have now taken away.

We believe compensation from the Hotel for our delegates is in order.

Barbara Anne Clay

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