Taiwan hotel axes Marriott contract over China naming row

Marriott was strongly criticized by Chinese authorities in January for listing Taiwan as separate countries. (Reuters)
Updated 16 August 2018
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Taiwan hotel axes Marriott contract over China naming row

  • Marriott was strongly criticized by Chinese authorities in January for listing Taiwan as separate countries
  • China is swift to condemn any moves that could be interpreted as de facto diplomatic recognition of the government in Taiwan

TAIPEI: The owner of a Starwood-branded hotel in Taiwan said Thursday it will terminate its contract with Marriott International, in protest over the US group caving in to Beijing pressure to list the island as part of China.
Marriott was strongly criticized by Chinese authorities in January for listing Taiwan — along with Tibet and Hong Kong — as separate countries, all regions which Beijing claims under its authority.
After the Chinese government shut down Marriott’s local website for a week, the hotel chain apologized and changed the listing to “Taiwan, China.”
But the Four Points by Sheraton in Zhonghe, a district of the capital Taipei, announced — in a front page advertisement in local newspaper the Liberty Times — it will terminate its franchise agreement with the parent group.
“We are sternly protesting against Marriott International unilaterally listing our hotel as ‘Taiwan, China’” on the simplified Chinese version of a booking website for members, the advert read, adding it would “dissolve” its contract.
Simplified Chinese is used in mainland China. A more complicated traditional version is used in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and on that version of the website the island is still listed as “Taiwan.”
Four Points by Sheraton is a brand of business hotels under the Starwood brand, which was bought by Marriott in 2016.
Lily Cheng, a spokeswoman for the Zhonghe hotel, told AFP its name will now be changed and it will no longer take reservations from Marriott’s booking system.
“Of course it will cause some impact, but our main customers are corporates, and Taiwanese people, and other booking websites,” she said.
Marriott did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
China is swift to condemn any moves that could be interpreted as de facto diplomatic recognition of the government in Taiwan.
It has taken a number of airlines, hotels and other companies to task in recent months for listing Taiwan as a separate country on their websites.
The foreign ministry lodged an official protest with the US for allowing Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen to transit in Los Angeles en route to Paraguay this week, during which she gave a rare public speech by a Taiwanese leader on US soil.


MBC launches studios to produce more premium content for Arab market

Updated 25 sec ago
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MBC launches studios to produce more premium content for Arab market

  • MBC Group founded by Saudi businessman Waleed Al-Ibrahim
  • Unit will specifically focus on dramas for both TV and film

LONDON: The Saudi-owned broadcaster MBC Group is to launch a new production unit — MBC Studios — in an effort to increase the production of high-quality film and television content for audiences in Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East region.
The new studios are expected to give a boost the Saudi and Middle Eastern TV and film industry as well as meet the increased demand for more non-English language TV content in the region.
The production unit will specifically focus on dramas for both TV and film that will appeal to Middle East and North African viewers, a statement from MBC Group said.
It will build on the work of the company’s existing production units: O3 Productions Mena, based in Dubai; AlSadaf in Saudi Arabia and O3 Medya in Turkey.
“Due to the existence of an untapped story reservoir in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Middle East across all genres of content, MBC Studios will take the initiative to produce the region’s most compelling stories for cinema, television and on-demand platforms,” read a statement on Sept. 18.
The and operates 18 TV channels including MBC Drama, which broadcasts Arabic drama 24 hours a day and the Al-Arabiya news channel.
MBC’s TV channels have also broadcast the Arabic version of “X Factor” as well as “Arab Idol” and the new Saudi soap opera “Al Assouf” launched earlier this year and set in 1970s Saudi Arabia.
“Content is the fuel that drives the success of both MBC television and Shahid.net, our VOD [video-on-demand] platform. Building on the group’s successes in drama, we are now expanding our ambition and widening our horizons yet further,” said Sam Barnett, CEO of the MBC Group.
MBC brought in Peter Smith to head up the new MBC Studios earlier this month. Smith is considered an industry veteran with a wealth of international experience, having previously held the role of president of International Home Entertainment at Universal Pictures.
“The future is certainly positive for MBC Studios especially in terms of leveraging the significant trend for non-English language television content to travel to more global markets,” said Smith in a statement.
MBC Group said it would release more information on specific projects the subsidiary will work on in the coming months.