As Black organizations spend millions of dollars a year on conventions at major hotels across the U.S., a study by the NAACP reports that “a dismal 0.9%” of the industry’s supplier contracts is spent with African-American owned companies even as hotels and lodges draw more than $120 billion a year.
“Moreover, the industry averaged a dismal 0.9% for supplier contracts with African American- owned companies, though individuals in this group ages 18-64 comprise 12.3% of the population. For these reasons and many more, much work remains to be done in the lodging industry to mitigate the racial economic inequality that threatens the future of this country,” states the report released Nov. 30 during an NAACP press conference in Atlanta.
The report, The NAACP Opportunities and Diversity Report Card: The Hotel and Resort Industry, “examines the representation of African Americans and people of color as a whole in the industry’s workforce, supplier diversity and hotel ownership,” states the executive summary.
The press conference was held at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis where the annual conference of the National Meeting Planners Association was being held. Participating in the news conference, according to a release, were NAACP President/CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous; NAACP Senior Director of Economic Programs Dedrick Muhammad; NAACP Econonic Development Committee Chairman Leonard James and Georgia State NAACP President Ed Dubose.
Racial inequities remain a reality across the U. S. even as projections show that Whites will become a minority population by 2050. Despite this fact, “racial economic inequality increasingly impedes the country’s economic advancement,” the report states. “During this period of high unemployment and declining wealth, Americans need living wage jobs with long-term career tracks now more than ever.”
The 45-page report is being released into a climate in which unemployment rates among African-Americans remain well into double digits and the impact of the economic quagmire has disparately hit Blacks and Latinos. The NAACP says it will explore several major industries in order to point out and attempt to resolve racial voids in employment and contracting.
The organization “will regularly examine the current state of diversity and inclusion in various U.S. economic sectors, highlighting the ones that exhibit the greatest potential for African Americans and other people of color. Furthermore, the NAACP will partner with industry leaders to advance best practices for racial and ethnic inclusion and diversity,” the report states.
According to the report, the largest hotels were included in the study on a voluntary basis. They included Hilton Worldwide; Hyatt Hotels Corporation; Marriott International, Inc.; Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc.; and Wyndham Hotel Group.
The study graded the industry in three categories, including hiring and job advancement; contracting and procurement; and ownership. Among the findings quoted from the report:
- Marriott International received a B grade—the highest rating out of the five industry leaders reviewed in the study. The B “indicates an overall performance that exceeds industry norms in inclusion.”
- No corporate leader received a grade of A, which would “indicate that the corporation greatly exceeded the industry norm.”
- Because “the industry rate of inclusion for people of color is quite low in governing body representation, management, property ownership, and supplier diversity, it is clear that corporate leaders in the hotel and resort industry—along with leaders in many other industries— still have far to go to ensure their workforce, leadership and suppliers adequately reflect the demographics of the United States.”
- Two out of three (65%) lodging industry employees work in the service sector and it is projected that its five largest occupations – food preparation and serving workers, janitors, waiters and waitresses, restaurant cooks, and housekeeping cleaners – will add more than one million jobs this decade. Like other service industries, hotels employ many low-wage, part-time/seasonal workers.
- Although African Americans comprise the largest percentage of travelers of color in the United States…and while the lodging and hotel industry is largely staffed by workers of color, racial and ethnic minorities remain inequitably disbursed throughout the lodging workforce. They overpopulate entry-level and lower-wage positions while being underrepresented in higher-level, more lucrative positions, such as that of general manager.
- Out of all jobs in the lodging industry, hotel owner positions show the greatest lack of diversity.
The report also points out some of the specific hindrances and solutions to minority economic progress in the industry. Among the findings quoted from the report:
- To advance beyond the plentiful lower-wage and entry-level positions in the lodging industry, workers must be educated about advancement opportunities. Hotels typically establish career tracks in marketing, public relations, law, accounting, architecture, and hotel operations. To qualify for a managerial or executive position, job candidates must acquire and develop business and operational skills.
- The National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH) is one of several organizations attempting to address this issue by linking people of color with hospitality company sponsors, industry representatives, hospitality organizations, advisors, and mentors to support the leadership pipeline for people of color in the industry.
- The hospitality industry’s reputation with people of color is another barrier to diversity in hotel management. On the website The Black Collegian, Flora Gailliard states, “Although African Americans have had a wealth of experience in hospitality, it has not always been positive.”12 In the past, African Americans were relegated to solely low-level positions “in back-of-house … departments such as the kitchen and housekeeping.”
- Over the past several decades, hotel chains have attempted to reach out to communities of color through multiple diversity recruitment and retention programs. These programs enable hotel companies to diversity and have led to a higher retention of staff. However, with the recession, many hotels have reduced resources for diversity recruitment, retention programs, and diversity-based initiatives.
- Michael Roberts, an African American hotelier, thinks expanding minority hotel ownership could have a major impact on the industry: “African Americans’ ability to own produces job opportunities in leadership roles for other African Americans.”
Despite the grim numbers, the NAACP report gives hopeful projections for the industry if affirmative action is taken to improve diversity through outreach, education and specific programs.
“Though the majority of jobs in the hotel and lodging industry are lower-skilled, there are a number of career and employment pathways that can lead to management-level careers. As with most other industries, a college degree in the lodging sector is an important stepping-stone for promotion—a college degree in fields of study such as hospitality management will open many doors for advancement. Shadowing experiences, mentoring relationships, and internships also provide valuable ‘on-the-job’ experience that helps candidates stand out,” the report concludes.
Despite these remedies, the hotel and lodging industry, a subsidiary of the tourism and hospitality industries remains woefully short in its hiring and business exchanges with African-Americans. The report concludes: “For these reasons and many more, much work remains to be done in the lodging industry to mitigate the racial economic inequality that threatens the future of this country.”