Being BOLD: Wyndham Underscores Inclusivity for Hotel Ownership

There are numerous barriers to hotel ownership—like industry awareness, access to capital, and market knowledge—causing groups of entrepreneurs to be underrepresented in hospitality. To create spaces that encourage, promote, and assist these groups in becoming hoteliers, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts created two programs: Women Own the Room and BOLD (Black Owners and Lodging Developers). Less than a year ago, Galen Barrett took on the role of vice president, strategic franchise initiatives, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, where he oversees these programs. For BOLD specifically, Barrett—who started working on the Wyndham team in the finance department and served as what he calls a “volunteer” on a “small team of folks who were invested in the success of this program”—recently gave LODGING an update on the program’s success and what’s in store for 2024.

Through asking franchisees, internal research, and reaching out to the community, Wyndham found that there are Black entrepreneurs who don’t know what hotel ownership opportunities look like. Barrett said, “They also don’t have advocates within the industry just as a consequence of not having had traction within the industry. The numbers speak for themselves: Only 2 percent of hotels are Black-owned. So, when we started the program, in listening to their feedback, we wanted to drive awareness and be an advocate for those entrepreneurs.”

In the summer of 2022, Wyndham launched BOLD with the overarching goal of advancing Black entrepreneurs on their journey to hotel ownership. The program aims to address two main pillars: endorsing hotel ownership as a means to generate wealth and providing the tools and resources to Black entrepreneurs already on their way to becoming hotel owners. “That’s how [BOLD] came to be—these two parallel processes of us identifying a need to outreach to this base as well as a real focus on how we drive our core value of inclusivity and apply it in a way that makes a difference,” Barrett explained.

Since then, BOLD has seen “a significant amount of success,” Barrett reported. Around the six-month mark, BOLD signed 20 hotels, with at least 10 under the ECHO Suites Extended Stay by Wyndham brand. Barrett shared, “Over the last 18 months, we’ve signed about 30 deals with Black entrepreneurs. As important as the deals we’ve signed—because deals are just the starting point—are the steps along the path towards a successful hotel journey.” Equally important to showcasing the number of people brought into the program and signed deals, Barrett said, is the fact that “we’ve brought more than 550 folks who have indicated interest in having a conversation with us around hotel ownership. That community continues to grow.”


Through overseeing BOLD and Women Own the Room, there are two things that Wyndham and Barrett have learned. First is, “In a way, these entrepreneurial communities already existed—they just weren’t necessarily tied into what the opportunity space looks like in hotels.” Barrett mentioned that it’s a significant undertaking to go from hotel conception to opening and then operating that asset, so Wyndham’s top piece of the program is “the ability to build that pipeline out and have people who are engaged.”

Second is the community that Wyndham is looking to support through having conversations and driving people toward hotel ownership. The company does this through creating meetings and networking opportunities to get potential owners in the door. The second BOLD Symposium and a Bootcamp were hosted at last summer’s National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators & Developers (NABHOOD) Conference, and Wyndham is now getting calls from people who weren’t at those meetings and didn’t “have hotels on their radar.” Many of these owners have commercial real estate assets in other spaces and heard about the program from a friend of a friend, through networking, or Wyndham’s social media posts, Barrett explained, and reached out expressing interest in pursuing a hotel opportunity. “I think it’s very encouraging. That’s the kind of momentum that we have started to really appreciate now that we’ve raised our hand and shown opportunities within the space.”

For the rest of 2024, Wyndham is continuing to build conversations and support the community in the best way it can. The company wants to focus on what entrepreneurs cited as issues they want help with: including avenues and access to capital. Barrett said, “The ways that we broadcast our solutions, we’ve had folks come to us with different ideas and different ways to help bridge that gap on access to capital…Finding different opportunities for these communities and for the BOLD community is really what we’re focused on this year.”

Barrett also highlighted that events for entrepreneurs interested in BOLD are going to be popping up in the year to come.

Lastly, Barrett discussed how important it is for the hotel industry to create and promote diversity in hotel ownership—after all, opening doors for new entrepreneurs brings new ideas and creativity to a saturated market. Barrett added, “At the very core of what our industry does is it helps to shape communities. A great entrepreneur has a concept for why a hotel makes sense, why it will help to make this community, and what helps this market improve from an economic perspective. And then that idea ultimately impacts and drives jobs, development, and local markets. That impact is immeasurable at the end of the day. We’re just excited to be part of the conversation.”

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Robin McLaughlin is digital editor of LODGING.