Pontins was accused of using an “undesirable guest list”, which included 40 common Irish surnames such as Delaney and O’Brien, to stop Traveller families from booking a break at their parks.
Their list of Irish surnames was published on their intranet page, and it required staff to block any potential customers with those names from booking.
Last year, the owners of Pontins, Britannia Jinky Jersey, signed a 12-month legally binding agreement with the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to prevent racial discrimination in the future.
But the watchdog cancelled the agreement in February amid suspicions that Pontins had not taken the “required steps” needed to tackle racial discrimination.
The commission today launched a formal investigation into whether Pontins broke the Equality Act 2010 by preventing Gypsy and Traveller guests from staying at their parks.
They will also inspect Pontins’ booking policies, probing into whether they discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity by requiring guests or prospective guests to be on the electoral register.
Marcial Boo, CEO of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “We are concerned that Pontins may have illegally denied Gypsy and Traveller families the simple pleasure of a holiday.
“Any business that refuses to provide services to guests due to their race or ethnic group is likely to be breaking equality law.”
He said that Pontins’ failure to comply with their agreement has “with no choice but to use stronger enforcement powers to investigate further.”
“The EHRC will continue to use all legal powers at its disposal to ensure that no one experiences racism, whether at a holiday park or elsewhere, simply because of their name, ethnicity or the community they belong to.”
In February 2020, the commission received information from a whistleblower that alleged the company had a discriminatory booking policy that excluded Gypsies and Travellers, prompting an investigation.
The commission found that a blacklist of mainly Irish surnames was uploaded to Pontins’ employee intranet instructing workers to refuse bookings to “undesirable guests” with predominantly Irish surnames.
A message printed alongside the blacklist, first revealed by iNews, read: “Please be aware that several guests are unwelcome at Pontins, however some of these will still try and book – especially during school holidays.
“We have been informed by our Operations Director that we do not want these guests on our parks.”
Surnames on the list included Horan, McDonagh, Doherty, Boyle, and Ward.
According to the commission’s investigation, Pontins was also using its “Commercial Vehicles” policy to exclude Gypsies and Travellers from its holiday parks.
The executive director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Alastair Pringle, commented on their practices at the time, saying: “It is hard not to draw comparisons with an ‘undesirable guest list’ and the signs displayed in hotel windows fifty years ago, explicitly barring Irish people and Black people.
“Banning people from services based on their race is discrimination and is unlawful. To say that such policies are outdated is an understatement.”
Pontins has been contacted by the
Sunday World for comment.