By CHRIS GRAEME
PORTUGALS FIRST completely non-smoking hotel is now operating in Lisbon.
The Ibis Liberdade hotel in Rua Barata Salgueiro is run by the French Accor Group.
The decision to create the total No Smoking zone follows the conversion of eight, 100 per cent non-smoking hotels in France.
It seems incredible that in a country like Portugal, where a considerable slice of the population smokes, that such an idea would be feasible. Yet it is working. Ibis Liberdade Director Mauro Zanotti said: “The idea was brought to us by our new Portugal Operations Manager, André Cavrios, who had seen it work successfully in France.
“It’s a little bit of market anticipation. Smoking is becoming less fashionable and the government has started introducing laws governing smoking in the work place, public spaces and restaurants, and so we thought why not go one step further and be the innovator in Portugal with regards to non-smoking?” he said.
Accor decided to convert a hotel to non-smoking in Lisbon because the group has other Ibis hotels in the city.
This meant that smokers would not be prejudiced against and would have alternative accommodation where smoking was allowed.
“This move is nothing against smokers, it’s about offering the non-smoking public a choice of having a 100 per cent smoke free environment,” Zanotti stressed.
Over the past four years the managers and staff of Accor hotels noticed that throughout the group in Portugal even smokers were asking for non-smoking rooms and were prepared to only smoke in public lounge areas or outside.
“Previous to the launch, 75 per cent of the rooms in the hotel were set aside for non-smokers. When we opened the hotel in 2000 it was only around 50 per cent. By 2004, there was a genuine demand for non-smoking rooms, and the amount that we had set aside was not sufficient to meet that demand,” he explained.
By 2005, the management increased the percentage of non-smoking rooms to 75 per cent and then when the scheme proved successful elsewhere, he automatically put his hand up and asked for the hotel to be made a smoke free zone.
But, it is not just in Ibis hotels that pioneering pilot schemes on smoking are being introduced. Many Lisbon-based companies are already confining smoking to smoking rooms, while a few are now actively employing non-smokers.
There are companies that are openly rejecting candidates that smoke by announcing in the adverts and job description ‘Post exclusively open to non-smokers.’
Work discrimination laws against smokers have not been seriously contemplated in European Union legislation.
However, that could change. In August, the European Commission stated that a company that refused to contract a person on the pure and simple grounds that he or she was a smoker ‘was not violating European Union legislation against discrimination in the workplace.’
According to Julio Vieira Gomes, an Employment Law specialist at Lisbon’s Catholic University, there is a hole in the law where smokers’ rights, or lack of them, fall through the net.
“It is a difficult problem because one could argue that smokers at work, in a hotel or other public place pose a health risk to others, and so will have a hard task proving they are being discriminated against.”