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International relations

Hilton turns away Cuban envoy in Japan, citing US embargo

Local government rebukes hotel for violating accommodations law

The hotel operator cited the long-standing U.S. embargo on Cuba in denying a room for the ambassador to Japan.   © Reuters

FUKUOKA, Japan -- A Hilton hotel in the southwestern Japanese city of Fukuoka refused a room to the Cuban ambassador last month because of American sanctions on the Caribbean country, it was learned Wednesday.

Japanese law prohibits hotel and inn operators from turning down guests when they have vacancies except for special cases, such as when the person has a contagious disease. The city of Fukuoka determined that the Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk violated the law and issued a warning or "administrative guidance" to the hotel.

According to Tonichi Travel Service, which made the arrangements for the Cuban Embassy, an Oct. 2 reservation for the ambassador was confirmed via facsimile the day before by the hotel, an affiliate of U.S. chain Hilton Hotels & Resorts.

But on the afternoon of Oct. 2, Hilton Fukuoka called to apologize, saying it was unable to serve government officials of countries subject to U.S. sanctions, in this case the embargo against Cuba in place for decades.

The Fukuoka hotel made the decision as a unit of an American company and complied with U.S. law, a Hilton Group representative said. The group acknowledged that the hotel lacked sufficient knowledge of Japanese lodging law and says it will take steps to ensure that no similar incident will recur.

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