MIAMI—Several hundred entrepreneurs looking to enter the lodging industry, as well as seasoned hoteliers eager to share their knowledge, are gathered here at the Marriott Miami Biscayne Bay for the 17th International African-American Hotel Ownership and Investment Summit.
The annual event, presented by the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers (NABHOOD), Black Meetings and Tourism magazine and Horizons Marketing Group International, has brought together a mix of investors, developers, franchisees, owners, lenders and major hotel chain executives—as well as students from colleges and hospitality schools looking to map their futures—for four days of networking and information gathering.
“This is the greatest industry in the world,” said Andy Ingraham, NABHOOD’s president/CEO, at the opening general session. “We’re happy that we continue to grow.” Ingraham noted achieving ownership in the hotel industry has been an evolutionary process.
“When you think about it, some 15 years ago [it seemed]African-Americans didn’t own hotels; they did. They just didn’t own Marriotts; they just didn’t own Hiltons,” he said, recalling in 2001, there was one African-American owned hotel in the United States that had a major brand. “Today, we have just over 523, and we continue to grow.”
Fighting a case of laryngitis, Michael Roberts, NABHOOD chairman and chairman of Roberts Hotels, told the audience, “No matter what, we always have to ‘sell’ our ourselves and our businesses. We have to take our vision and our commitment and we have to explore all opportunities. If we fail to do that, we are failing ourselves.”
The Summit is providing a wealth of information in the forms of seminars, roundtables and panel discussions, as well as a trade show to get attendees and vendors to interface. “Our goal is networking. How do you connect for a lifetime?” said Ingraham.—Stefani C. O’Connor