Black Meetings and Tourism

Sep/Oct 2011

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Page 52 of 72

NABHOOD BY MICHAEL BENNETT W elcome to one of our new feature column in Black Meetings and Tourism, NABHOOD NEWS. In keeping with our continued emphasis on the African-American market- place this column will bring our readers the latest news in African-American hotel ownership and development. This column will include education where appropriate, any special programs put forth by the major hotel brands to encourage African-American hotel ownership, a member spotlight, association updates, vendor spotlight and a calendar of events to name a few. We hope you will find it informative. Who knows, it might even encourage some to purchase their own properties. We felt this was the perfect time to launch this feature as our first issue after the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers (NABHOOD) held their 15th Annual African American Hotel Ownership and Investment Summit & Trade Show. Nearly 300 attendees, including 50 students, descended upon the beautiful grounds of the Doral Golf Resort and Spa in Miami for the chance to build relationship and learn what it takes to own properties from leading brands, industry experts, financiers and current African-American hotel own- ers. Many of the relationships established at NABHOOD led directly to partnerships being formed and hotel properties being purchased. The theme of this year's one-of-a-kind event in Black hotel ownership was "Together we will make a difference." When NABHOOD start- ed over a decade ago there was just one African-Ameri- can-owned property in the country. Today there are over 500 and grow- ing. ANDY INGRAHAM 52 Andy Ingraham, president and CEO of NABHOOD, says the big take away from this year's summit is the "renewed inter- est in travel and investment…the market is turning around," after the economic troubles NEWS of the past few years. The quality and depth of attendees signifies the impor- tance of this event in the tourism and hospitality industry. In addition to those mentioned above, government officials fromtheU.S.andCaribbean, research analysts,entrepreneurs and numerous vendors integral to hotel operations all took part. Ingraham is proud of the growing maturity of potential African-American hotel owners believing "we are no longer relegated to building wealth through sports and entertainment," nor are wealthy athletes and entertainers the only groups able to put together deals leading to own- ership. "Today, African-Americans can build wealth in the hotel industry unencumbered by race – the brand names are what's important," says Ingraham. If you buy a Marriott brand, the consumer typically doesn't care who owns the property it's more about the Marriott experience and the excellence of the brand. Hank Thomas, president of Victoria Hospitality delivered one of the most powerful and moving speeches of the entire summit sharing with the audience what he said is "the reason you can own hotels today." Thomas, one of the 13 original Freedom Riders was almost beaten to death in 1961 at the hands of a racist mob. He told the gathering that the struggles of that era opened the doors of opportuni- ty for today's minority business owners. NABHOOD has made great strides in attracting young people through the Youth Summit. These future lead- ers from Histori- cally Black Colleges, the Caribbean and hospitality schools "now have the opportunity to see people who look like them as owners," says Ingraham. Ingraham unveiled NABHOOD's commitment to raise $1 million for a student scholarship fund. Part of the four-day event included the presentation of the HANK THOMAS annual NABHOOD awards. This year's Trail Blazer Award went to Don Barden, owner of Majestic Star Casino and Fitzgeralds – the only Black-owned hotel in Las Vegas. Barden left us earlier this year but his impact and contribu- tion will never be forgotten. Other recipients include Choices Hotel International as Black Meetings & Tourism September/October 2011:

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