|The numbers are still stunning. While there are more than 50,000 hotels in the United States, just over 500 of them are African American owned. There are 523, to be exact. Considering the African American population will increase by 31 percent to 48 million over the next 10 years, the representation of African American hotels in relation to the potential African American travelers is nearly none existent. The numbers remain shockingly small when it comes to Hispanic American owned hotels and female owned hotels in relation to those rapidly growing populations.
“The issue that people keep forgetting, and a lot of companies including a lot of hotel brands, is what we call “the browning of America,” says Andy Ingraham, president and CEO of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators, and Developers (NABHOOD). “As America becomes more diverse, business changes.”
Ingraham will be a featured panelist at The HR & Diversity Summit presented by Lodging in cooperation with Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration. The summit will be held Sept. 5-7 at Omni Parker House in Boston, Mass. More information and registration information is available at www.lodgingevents.com.
Ingraham says that as diverse populations grow and they will become the next generation of investors and owners in business. He says he fears the hotel industry, unless it actively addresses diversity at its highest levels of leadership, will get left behind.
“Unfortunately in the hospitality industry we see more lip service, or more window dressing, than substantial commitment to investment,” he says. “You see that some hotel companies stick out, but others are almost non-existent [when it comes to substantial investment in diversity ownership efforts]. What I think is going to happen is that by the time some of these companies catch up, they’ll be behind the curve.”
He cites the case of Denny’s Restaurants where the company had to deal with very negative public opinion following an incident at one of its restaurants. “It took a catastrophe for it to get on the right track and to begin to look and see how it could be more inclusive,” Ingraham says. “I fear the same thing with the hospitality industry.”
While there have been many discussions within the African American community about bringing diversity to the forefront of the industry, participation from the C-level suites has still been largely missing. “Diversity must make business sense,” Ingraham says. And it does, considering the inevitable shift in the American population.
But for diversity effort to really take hold, it must have buy-in and real support from the top leaders in the industry. “That’s part of what [The HR & Diversity Summit] aims to address,” Ingraham says.
Another area that needs to be addressed is the buy-in of African Americans themselves, particularly in younger generations. “African Americans have been in the hospitality industry for a long, long time, but that is scrubbing floors,” ingraham says. “They still have a problem going from that to the ownership suite or getting promotions to executive positions. That’s why we at NABHOOD spend a lot of energy and time working with schools, so we can generate qualified minority candidates who can play a role within this industry.”
And to help the future leaders of the industry recognize the strong business case for diversity and inclusion. Ingraham cites the success of RLJ Lodging Trust, the REIT founded by Robert Johnson and Tom Baltimore. “They saw an uptick in business by recognizing the market and creating minority ownership that better serves those markets,” Ingraham says. “When travelers look at hotel brands and they don’t see a reflection of themselves, they are more likely not to do business. So for many CEOs, investment in diversity directly impacts the bottom line of business.”
There’s no doubt future success in the hotel industry relies on building diversity ownership and leadership. The numbers tell the story. But the only way to catch up with those population numbers is to have serious conversations and meaningful investment in building diversity ownership and leadership.
Ingraham says hotel brands that aren’t already doing that need to figure it out soon or risk falling behind the rest of the industry. “It always amazes me that when I go to industry conferences, I see maybe four or five African Americans,” Ingraham says. “Even Star Trek figured out quickly that there are more than just white men in the world.”
Thursday, February 14, 2013 by Priscilla Law
Hello Andy (I worked with you many years ago (on Broward Blvd). I am so pleased to see that you've achieved so much... Priscilla