Swedish hotel accused of refusing gay couple

UPDATED: A Swedish hotel has come under fire for denying a gay couple from booking a spa weekend, only to allow a straight couple to make the same reservation a day later.

Swedish hotel accused of refusing gay couple
A snap of Elite Stadshotell in Västerås taken from the hotel's website.

According to Swedish Radio station P3 News, a man by the name of Mikael tried to book a spa weekend at Elite Stadshotell in the town of Västerås. But when he revealed that the reservation was for himself and his boyfriend Johan, he was told that the spa was closed due to refurbishment. The next day he successfully made the same reservation in a fake name, as heterosexual ‘Evelina’.

“When we tried to book as a gay couple we couldn’t complete a booking, but for a heterosexual couple the same date could be reserved without any problems,” Mikael told P3 News and said he would report the incident to the Swedish Equality Ombudsman.

Elite Stadshotell director Cem Gürler denied any discrimination had taken place, and blamed the incident on a misunderstanding. He told The Local he had tried to contact the couple to work things out.

"I understand that the couple have felt discriminated, but that was certainly never our intention. It was a misunderstanding about the closure dates for the spa during a massive refurbishment we're undertaking. We have made a mistake and we're very sorry. But it's not about discrimination, rather poor service and communication," he said.

"We stand for everybody's equal value and discrimination does not exist in our world. We also have several homosexual staff members working in the reception."

It may come as a surprise that a hotel chain in Sweden, a country with a global reputation for openness and gender equality, is being accused of discrimination.

But Equality Ombudsman press officer Clas Lundstedt told The Local that although he could not comment on the specific case, it was not an isolated incident.

"Discrimination evidently exists in Sweden. We get around 2000 reports a year from people who feel they have been discriminated against, but of course that does not include the number of unreported incidents," he said.

"Of those reported incidents we investigate maybe 25 percent. Last year we decided to take 25 of those incidents to court, or at least declared an intention to do so."

In March 2014 a gay Swedish couple claimed a series of homophobic attacks forced them to move from their village. Among the accusations from the pair was that they had received an anonymous letter in the post saying “You damn faggots will die. We don’t want you here.” Swedish police later closed the investigation due to lack of evidence.  

Earlier this year the first swimming pool in Sweden designed for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people opened in Stockholm suburb Sundbyberg, an event more commonly associated with tolerant Sweden, a country that has allowed gay marriage since 2009.

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