An investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation uncovered a leaked email advising staff at the Ibis Styles Alice Springs Oasis to move people from “the communities” into one of six designated rooms.
The national broadcaster said the term is used locally to refer to indigenous people living in remote communities outside of Alice Springs, in northern Australia.
“Following an investigation released on the Ibis Styles Alice Springs Oasis, the Group has opened its own internal probe,” a spokesperson for Accor said in a statement.
Accor, which operates worldwide with a portfolio including the Pullman, Raffles, Novotel and Mercure brands, said it would take “prompt and decisive action in this case”.
“The group, which is present in 100 countries, has a diversity and inclusion policy that respects cultures, heritage and local law,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
An unnamed staff member at the Australian hotel told the ABC the profiling had happened hundreds of times since the initiative was handed down last June, where anyone who “appeared Aboriginal” was given the “worse rooms”.
The ABC arranged two bookings at the Ibis, one with Aboriginal guests and the other non-indigenous. It found that both were being charged the same amount, but Aboriginal clients were directed to an inferior room, as per the leaked email.
The national broadcaster said the rooms were starkly different, with the Aboriginal group given the dirtier and less well-maintained accommodation. The ABC report prompted the government to take its own action.
“That sort of behaviour from Australian businesses is completely unacceptable,” minister for indigenous affairs Nigel Scullion told reporters on Friday.
Scullion said he was looking into the claims, warning Australia's racial discrimination act held “serious compliances and sanctions”.
“Let's have a look at the evidence but that sounds very concerning to me.”
Aboriginal Australians make up about three percent of the total national population of 25 million, but remain the country's most disadvantaged community. Canberra has consistently fallen short on health and education measures to improve the livelihoods of Aboriginal people, after vowing to “close the gap” between indigenous Australians and the rest of the country over a decade ago.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics says the unemployment rate for Aboriginal Australians is three to four times higher than the national average, while suicide rates for Aboriginal children are five times higher than for the rest of the population.