Australia's own Fawlty Towers

A great pity. Blue Mountains resorts have a long tradition of the highest quality. I hope the Hydro Majestic back to its old standards by now, a wonderful place on my visits to it

ONCE a Blue Mountains icon, Leura's York Fairmont Resort has been turned into the region's Fawlty Towers with claims of unwashed sheets, dirty towels, a filthy leaf-clogged swimming pool and irate guests demanding their money back. Immigration officials raided the place last month; the federal Workplace Ombudsman is investigating claims by former workers that they have been ripped off; motoring organisations across Australia have suspended the resort's rating; and NSW tourism organisations have stopped taking bookings.

The business couple who run hotels and shopping centres, Michael Kwok and Helen James, bought the award-winning former Peppers Resort from Mirvac group for $47 million in December 2007. Since then more than 200 of the 240 staff have been laid off and the situation has become so intolerable that even the few staff left are fed up.

The hotel's business manager, Priscilla Lagatule, said: "Fairmont has always had a good name … in the first year of York taking over, that reputation was intact. Obviously, they've made the wrong choices in the decisions they've made since." Mrs Lagatule said management had told staff last Friday that the company engaged to outsource housekeepers had been sacked. When experienced Peppers staff were dispensed with, they were replaced by workers with less experience.

Mr Kwok and Ms James have admitted to former staff members that they no longer have anybody in senior management with hospitality experience. Despite requests, neither Mr Kwok nor Ms James returned the Sydney Morning Herald's calls yesterday.

The chairman of Blue Mountains Tourism, Randall Walker, said: "That something like this would happen to such an iconic property is unprecedented." When the Herald visited the resort yesterday, signs of decay were common. In a car park, the duck-shaped boats that once plied the resort lake are stacked, some missing heads. Insulation hangs from holes in the eaves.

The resort's problems came to a head on Easter Saturday when police were called after more than 200 guests signed a petition demanding their $250-a-night payments be returned. The guests complained of inadequate staff numbers, rooms not being serviced, and dirty and broken facilities. Ten member organisations of Blue Mountains Tourism offered complimentary one-night stays at other locations and entry to local attractions to Fairmont guests to atone for any ill-feeling.

Sylvia Avati of Balmain said the best way to describe her stay was an Easter horribilis. "No one would answer the phone, room service/house-keeping/reception/main switch were never answered. I had to walk the 120 metres to reception and complain to get an ice bucket delivered to the room," she said. "The whole floor was incredibly dirty. Towels thrown into corners of the corridor. Room service trays left out in the hallway for over 24 hours."


Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see TONGUE-TIED. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me (John Ray) here

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