“The politics are complicated,” said Sorenson. “The hospitality business has been one where, for decades, immigrants to the United States launch. They start their careers with us and grow in their careers. They build their homes and their families. One of the most special parts of our job is to hear these stories.”
Joyce commented that the commitment to diversity practices has failed to trickle down to other parts of the industry and said that in order to make a real difference, independent management companies as well as individual hotel owners and operators need to see the tangible value of putting these practices into place. “We’re trying to push diversity as a business concept. That’s what is going to eventually sell it to the masses,” he said. “We have to explain why you can make more money if you do this. That’s the only way we’re going to get through.”
The CEOs also commented that the lack of consumer support behind businesses that practice what they preach makes it difficult to move forward. Sorenson explained that when consumers book hotels, many still focus on price rather than looking closely at a company’s business practices. “We need to do better as consumers in actually acting as if what companies do makes a difference,” he said. “At some point, we’ve got to be prepared to really draw distinctions between companies.”
Despite the challenges surrounding diversity and inclusion efforts, the panelists agreed that appealing to younger generations and getting high school and college students involved in the hospitality are essential to its continued success.
“A more constructive, productive world is coming because the next generation thinks without regard to race, color, sexual orientation, or religion,” said Nassetta. “As members of that generation become leaders of businesses and government, they are going to have a wholly different conception. I am immensely optimistic about where the world is going.”