The Renaissance Providence Downtown Hotel, which occupies a prime piece of real estate between the Rhode Island State House and the Providence Place Mall, was opened with great fanfare in 2007 by Sage Hospitality Resources. Advertised as being “among the most remarkable hotels in Providence” it is described as featuring “exquisite historic architecture with excellent modern hotel amenities and premium service.” This is a four-star hotel where room rates hover around $500 a night.
In 2008 the Renaissance became TAG (Travel Advocacy Group) Approved. According to the press release issued at the time, “This prestigious designation is awarded to gay-friendly hotels, resorts and destinations across the United States.” In order to be TAG Approved, the hotel must be recognized for its “outstanding commitment to equality,” including:
-Enforcing non-discriminatory policies including sexual orientation
-Treating heterosexual spouses and homosexual domestic partners equally in personnel policies
-Providing diversity and sensitivity training for employees
-Empowering customers and employees to be watchdogs of its gay and lesbian business practices
The Procaccianti Group (TPG), “a Cranston-based hotelier and development company,” acquired the hotel from Sage Hospitality Resources in late 2012/early 2013. By May, 2013 the Renaissance was no longer TAG Approved.
The exact reasons for the Renaissance losing its TAG Approved status are unknown, but I learned that one or more complaints have been filed with the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights (RICHR) due to discriminatory practices against LGBTQ employees. When I requested information on these complaints from RICHR I was informed that under the Access to Public Records Act, investigatory records are not releasable. RICHR could neither confirm nor deny that any complaints were made or that any investigation was being conducted.
TAG has a similar policy of not commenting on the exact reasons for loss of TAG Approved status. When I called TAG I was told only that the Hotel lost its TAG Approved status in May, 2013.
Reading the TAG Approved Accommodations Member Application, only one manner of losing TAG Approved status is discussed. Upon becoming TAG Approved the Renaissance committed itself to the following stipulation:
By becoming a TAG Approved Accommodation, property management acknowledges that both their customers and employees may become “watchdogs” of their business practices. TAG Approved encourages both hotel employees and customers to contact TAG Approved to report if the property does not follow required policies. It is the policy for TAG Approved to follow up on all complaints, and we expect the property to adequately address and resolve the issues presented. If TAG Approved determines that the complaint is not being adequately addressed, or that the property does not meet TAG Approved’s Best Practices qualifications, the property will be terminated as a TAG Approved member and the company must agree to immediately cease using TAG Approved identification on promotional materials.
In other words, it seems that employee and/or guest “watchdogs” made one or more complaints concerning the violation of the non-discrimination policy the hotel agreed to under TAG guidelines. When this was reported, TAG expected the Renaissance “to adequately address and resolve the issues presented.” When the hotel failed to adequately resolve the issue(s) the hotel was “terminated as a TAG Approved member” and the Renaissance was immediately compelled to cease “using TAG Approved identification on promotional materials.”
“We are proud to receive TAG approval because it recognizes our efforts to serve and welcome the gay community,” said Angelo De Peri, general manager of the Renaissance Providence Hotel, in 2008, “We hope this designation inspires any and all travelers to stay at the Renaissance Providence Hotel, where they will find a welcoming and non-discriminatory environment.”
Five years later, even as Rhode Island was celebrating the passage of marriage equality and the positive effects such passage would have on our tourism industry, the Renaissance Providence Hotel, with De Peri still as manager, was quietly dismissed from the program. This is the same De Peri now under fire from hotel workers seeking to unionize at the Renaissance.
The Renaissance Providence Downtown Hotel either cannot justify its behavior towards LGBTQ employees and customers or worse, it doesn’t care to. One wonders if the discriminatory actions that remain unaddressed by the hotel are worth the loss of revenue and prestige the TAG Approved label once brought.