An executive director of leading European hotel and cruise company Louis Group has apologised after writing “offensive” comments on a social media site.
Louis Loizou, whose family founded the Louis Group, wrote the comments after Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst won Saturday’s Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen, Denmark.
He wrote: “I know Eurovision is supposed to be getting funnier and more peculiar each year but this is offensive and a disgrace. The way it is going there will be murderers, crooks and paedophiles taking part!
“Shame, shame, shame to all involved in choosing these performers and for those who voted and those who accepted them!”
He added: “Values have disappeared. The world has come to a sad end. We need a new beginning. These are only my views…not everyone has to agree with me!”
A spokesman for Louis Hotels said the comments represented Loizou’s personal opinion and had been misinterpreted. He said the group welcomes LGBT travellers and works closely with the LGBT community in many countries, including organising gay cruises.
“We have a large number of guests from the LGBT community who are repeaters because they have enjoyed a high level of hospitality and they know they are staying or sailing with a group where the diversity of its clients is in fact one of our strengths,” he said.
Loizou’s status provoked a large number of comments on Facebook, with some supporting his point of view and others criticising him. He later added to the thread: “To all those who disagree with me… I have many gay friends and I am very proud to be their friend…what I said is that this FOR ME was over the top.”
He then updated his status to say: “It seems that my status on the winning performance at this year’s Eurovision was largely misunderstood. I have many gay people in my circle of friends and I am very proud to have them as close friends.
“Therefore, in no way should that status be interpreted as homophobic. I do apologise if, in the spur of the moment, I chose some very inappropriate words when writing it. In no way did I intend to offend anyone. I merely wanted to express that taste wise, and in particular the beard element, was for me over the top.”
However, Loizou’s remarks came under fire from agents and suppliers.
Nick Harding-McKay, managing director of Travel Designers, said: “His comments are offensive. Is he linking gay people with murderers and paedophiles? If that’s his opinion, does he mean gay people aren’t welcome in his hotels? Is Cyprus an unfriendly gay destination?
“You do come across homophobia, but you wouldn’t expect it from Cyprus and not the director of a leading hotel company.”
Joelle Watkins, a travel industry employee, said the comments were “deeply shocking”.
She told Travel Weekly: “As part of the LGBT community, I found the comments to be deeply shocking and offensive. I really don’t think this is an appropriate way for a high profile, customer-facing business to present itself.
“At best, this is a harsh lesson in social media, at worst it is a hugely short-sighted move from the travel industry on the ‘island of straight love’ to bite the hand that feeds it, not least in tricky economic times.”
Louis Group, which is listed on the Cyprus Stock Exchange, owns or operates 20 hotels in Greece and Cyprus. It owns Hilton Cyprus Hotel in Nicosia and manages the Hilton Park Nicosia.
The firm also owns seven cruise ships, three of which are currently chartered to Thomson Cruises.
The news comes after the Cypriot government introduced a bill criminalising homophobic behaviour, punishing offenders with a €5,000 fine and prison sentence of up to three years.
The Cyprus Tourism Organisation distanced itself from Loizou’s comments. A spokesman said: “The comments made by the particular individual is his own personal view and does not reflect the views of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation.
“As the national tourist board of the Republic of Cyprus we welcome all visitors, from all walks of life.”
Hilton Hotels also reiterated its support for the gay community. A spokesman said: “We are a global company of diverse cultures serving diverse guests and we make every effort to ensure our hotels reflect our inclusive spirit.”