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Two hotels needled by protesters bow to pressure to cancel anti-vac campaigner events

Kirsten Robb /

Two Australian hotels have cancelled upcoming events featuring controversial US anti-vaccination campaigner Dr Sherri Tenpenny.

The Kareela Golf and Social Club in Sydney revealed yesterday it would cancel its event, while the Amora Hotel Riverwalk in Melbourne confirmed this morning that it too will pull its scheduled event with Tenpenny.

Opponents of the anti-vaccination movement believe the campaign to encourage parents not to vaccinate their kids is endangering children’s lives. Online publisher Mamamia ran an article on Monday describing Tenpenny as a dangerous person and calling on Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to cancel the speaker’s visa.

The cancellations follow a decision by a Melbourne hotel to cancel an event featuring controversial “pick-up artist” Julien Blanc in November, after its Facebook page was flooded with comments damning the hotel’s choice to host the speaker, who is alleged to promote violence against women. Blanc’s visa was later revoked after protests to the Immigration Minister’s office.

Facebook commentators have similarly taken to the Amora Hotel Riverwalk Facebook page about Tenpenny, with one commenter posting: “Disgusted you are hosting Sheryl Tenpenny & Isaac Golden. Dangerous quacks peddling nonsense to line their pockets at the expense of our children’s health. Won’t be staying here again.”

The ABC reports a group of doctors has also cancelled a workshop at the Melbourne venue in protest of the Tenpenny event.

Amora Hotel Riverwalk general manager Tim Bilston confirmed the cancellation of the Tenpenny event to SmartCompany this morning but said the hotel would not be making any further comment at this stage.

General manager of the Kareela club in Sydney, Dennis Skinner, told the ABC the venue did not want to be associated with such a controversial subject matter.

“The club as a venue, we don’t have a position for or against this, we just decided the subject matter was too controversial for us to be involved in,” said Skinner.

Michelle Rovere, director of marketing and public relations agency Belles and Whistles, told SmartCompany these smaller boutique hotels are likely to be cautious about becoming involved in such controversy.

“They need to protect their business and not alienate any segments of the market in the future,” Rovere says.

“No brand wants to be associated with a negative message or a person that will damage the brand.”

Rovere says businesses need to be careful about such associations, given social media provides a public forum for opinion.

“Social media has opened the floodgates to anyone wanting to express an opinion about anything, the minute they see something they disagree with, they’ll jump online and say what they think,” she says.

SmartCompany contacted Dennis Skinner and the Kareela Golf Club but did not receive a response prior to publication.

*This article was amended at 2.15pm on 08/01/15 to reflect the fact Dr Tenpenny is a qualified medical practitioner.

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Kirsten Robb

Kirsten Robb is a former journalist at SmartCompany. Previously, she worked at News Corp as a property reporter for Leader Newspapers and the Herald Sun, and holds a Masters of Journalism at Melbourne University.

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