Friday, June 01, 2012 -
The InterContinental hotel chain has apparently pulled out of Uzbekistan, according to several local media reports.
The InterContinental Tashkent, the country’s sole five-star hotel, had been run by the British InterContinental group in a joint venture with the Uzbek government since it was established 15 years ago.
But the British management group suddenly left the country and the hotel name was changed to InContinental Tashkent, the independent UzNews.net news agency reported Thursday.
The ministry of foreign economic relations, investment and trade, which owns the establishment, has been silent on the development.
The hotel’s web site simply said: “This hotel will no longer be an Intercontinental from 28 May 2012.”
Rumors have swirled in the press.
One Uzbek media outlet said the British group left because its 15-year contract has expired and that the Uzbek partner is considering alternative proposals by other international hotel management chains.
Media outlets in Russia say not so, because the British investors “even though of expanding their activities,” UzNews reported.
Some suggest the decision was tied to too little cash and too much corruption.
Wikileaks cables of the then-U.S. ambassador to Uzbekistan Jon Purnell speak of “very low occupancy rates as the result of fewer foreign visitors … wreaking havoc” on the hotel’s “bottom line.”
The hotel had no rivals for quality, as the vast majority of American and European visitors came to this hotel, as of 2007 when the comments were made.
But there has been a significant drop of Western visitors, while many businessmen from other countries chose lower priced hotels, the news agency said.
Purnell expressed the opinion that the minister of Foreign Economic Relations, Investment and Trade was only interested in the hotel for prestige reasons, and “whatever money he can squeeze from it.”
The ministry lacked interest in resolving problems and refused to intervene when Uzbek tax officials made what hotel management described as “clearly illegal money grab”, Purnell wrote.
The diplomat spoke of the country’s abysmal business climate leading foreign investors to leave.