Would You Dare to Blow Your Whistle in the Hospitality Industry?

By feature writer Gordon James Gorman

Now that the Bradley Manning whistleblower case seems to have reached its conclusion, and with Edwards Snowden’s whistle temporarily silenced by the Russians, I thought it might be an ideal time to raise the issue of whistle blowing within the Hospitality industry to find out whether anyone out there might be willing to share their broad and non specific experiences of a practice deemed by various concerned parties as either nefarious, disloyal, treasonous, unpatriotic or on the flip side, perhaps even democratic and brave.

No real names, countries, states, dates or properties need be mentioned for obvious legal and career development reasons, I just want to know if anyone else in the Hospitality business has ever felt the need to pick up their whistle, pucker their lips, and blow as hard as I did very often and very loudly over an international career spanning forty years, the result of which in many cases was either to be vilified, victimized, pressurized, pulverized, demonized, ostracized and often traumatized.

In a few of these cases, I was also threatened with legal action and worse, all of which is revealed in my forthcoming book on the subject, which may shock and even horrify readers, and a few owners, presuming of course anyone actually buys and reads it. If they don’t, no problem, it will be a cathartic and worthwhile endeavor for me, as I approach retirement from a wild and wonderful forty years’ career that has given me so much pleasure, and more than my fair share of pain.

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As an appetizer, I will share a few choice tidbits in this article, in no particular order, simply to illustrate what can go on behind the scenes in hotels owned or managed by unscrupulous scoundrels with little or no regards for the health, safety, comfort, welfare and loyalty of their guests and staff, all of whom   keep the cash flowing, even while being subjected to abuse from incompetent and abusive tyrants.

The first time I blew my shiny new whistle, was as a young and very green apprentice chef in 1972, after being repeatedly physically abused by the 60 years old Head Chef (long deceased from liver failure), who drank neat Vodka by the litre from the time he arrived in the morning, until the glorious moment he fell asleep in a drunken stupor in his smoke filled office each evening, at which time I would replace the Vodka in his glass with white vinegar and then sneak out in a hurry.

After reporting this frequent physical and verbal abuse to senior management, I ended up with yet another black eye, which required a thick steak compress, another even thicker cauliflower ear, and being summarily dismissed or “sacked”, as they say in the UK. However, I later received an apology from that company’s legal affairs department, and a generous settlement after I hired my own lawyer, at the tender age of 16 with a little help from my rather irate parents, and the local press, which took up the case on my behalf.

This then was the beginning of a long and loud whistle blowing career, which went on to include spilling the beans on serious health and safety issues at several hotels in Africa, where I literally shoveled dead blue bottle flies and live maggots out of “fresh” and frozen food cold stores, and encountered widespread bribery and corruption, and where one particularly nasty episode of whistle blowing ended up with me being incarcerated in a really nasty African prison for a few unforgettable days and nights, as the result of a concocted and fabricated work permit issue.

Despite this horrible and frightening experience, there followed more whistle blowing on shady drug and prostitution deals at a Mafia owned island resort, a permanently drunk GM in Asia who was openly cavorting and canoodling with junior male staff members in his office, a sex mad GM in a fairly conservative Gulf   State who ordered his female sales team members to wear indecently short miniskirts and revealing low cut tops, and to then sit on his lap for morning briefings before he opened the first bottle of Scotch for that day.

I also blew the whistle on a thoroughly unpleasant owner’s representative (who claimed to be an Engineer), at one very posh five stars hotel in another part of the world, after I discovered human excrement and urine sliding down shafts that had been improperly constructed and signed off by that scoundrel, who was anxious to cover his own “stinking” incompetence.

That same Engineer also knew that our smoke detectors, sprinklers and fire hoses did not work properly, and he knew that I knew, he had paid local inspectors to overlook these incredibly dangerous deficiencies, as he had taken the cash from my accounts, which resulted in me openly reporting the episode to the local press after I had been repeatedly threatened and intimidated, and then terminated and deported from that particular unhealthy and unhygienic property and country. I was even declared persona non grata and had it officially stamped in my passport, which I keep as a souvenir.

This was all fine with me, as once again I walked away head held high, with a large settlement, although it did cause some discomfort and inconvenience to my wife and kids who were suddenly pulled out of  much loved schools, and deported back home with me to Bangkok within 24 hours of the termination notice being served.

One of my latest and greatest whistle blowing cases also resulted in me being unceremoniously booted out of a large hotel in Asia, which was owned by a well known notorious gangster, after I had taken a firm stance against the selling of very expensive counterfeit French wines and spirits in his hotel’s bars and restaurants, along with fake luxury branded perfumes, clothes, handbags, and watches, all of which he personally supplied to his numerous shops in the hotel, which deliberately duped guests out of their holiday cash every day. 

He also controlled the collection of cash (called joiners fees in that particular country), from guests who wanted to take prostitutes to the rooms with no ID checks, with the cash handed over to the owner each morning by the hotel’s Security Manager in a large sealed brown envelope. In addition he turned a blind eye to the obvious child trafficking that was going on right in front of my eyes (which I quickly stopped), the mysterious disappearance of hard drugs found in the hotel, (mostly heroin, cannabis, opium, morphine) and worst of all, numerous dead bodies being spirited out of the hotel in body bags by corrupt police officers, all of whom who had apparently expired as a result of poisoning and violent robberies by those same prostitutes and pimps who had conveniently failed to provide IDs. 

Needless to say, it did not take long for me to discover and then blow the whistle on this shocking catalogue of criminal activity, which was perhaps the reason why he had paid me so handsomely, and in cash, and it was ultimately the reason why I parted company with this particular hotel and its villainous owner (now deceased) after only a few months in the GM’s hot seat, but not before I returned every dollar he paid me, as it was all dirty money, for which I had no desire or need.

PS. None of the above is mentioned in my CV, which is now permanently closed, sealed and filed, as I have almost reached the end of this sweet and sour chapter of my career and life, (although I plan to complete a decade of service here in Karachi) but it is all revealed in great detail in the forthcoming book, and of course the well blown whistle stays well polished and in my trousers pocket, just in case its ever needed again.

About the author

bio_gordonjgormanGordon James Gorman, General Manager Avari Towers (since 2006)

Gordon James Gorman has spent more than 40 years in the international hospitality industry, starting his journey at the Heart of Midlothian Football Club in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1972, not on the soccer field, but in the kitchens of their fine dining restaurant as an apprentice chef, later working his way up to the position of General Manager via stints at leading hotels in Glasgow, London, Paris, Rome, Nairobi, Mombasa, Abuja, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Hua Hin, Bahrain, Riyadh, Seoul and Karachi,  with leading international brands that include Rosewood, Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Dusit, Accor, Hilton and most recently with Avari International Hotels in Karachi Pakistan, where he has spent the last six years.

He is an active blogger and feature writer for HOTELS magazine, ehotelier and various other Hospitality industry websites, the founder of FBAT, the Food and Beverage Association of Thailand, a much in demand keynote speaker on the subjects of Hospitality Management, Marketing Leadership and Young Entrepreneurship, and is an active supporter of many local charity and community projects in his adopted cities of Karachi and Bangkok.

His first book, entitled Five Years in Pakistan, Tall Tales of Hospitality from the Frontier of Terror, currently in the process of editing and publication, tells the story of how he and his team transformed the iconic Avari Towers, Karachi, which in 2007 was an uncompetitive four stars hotel, into the city’s leading five stars hotel, over the most tumultuous five years period in the nation’s history. 

On his office walls at Avari Towers can be seen photographs of Mr Gorman, taken with many famous people, including President Zardari, President George Bush, Nelson Mandela, H.M. the Queen Elizabeth, Pope John, The King of Bahrain, President Moi of Kenya, Tony Blair, David Cameron, and many others to numerous to mention, all illustrating a lifetime of dedicated service which continues to this day in Karachi.

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