“The lodging industry has failed to keep pace with our diverse nation,”Benjamin Todd Jealous

Black travelers and conventioneers beware. Most of the major hotels you pay to stay in, reportedly, shortchange people of color and are treating African Americans unethically. That’s according to a damning report card released last week by the NAACP that slammed five hotel chains for failing the black community – particularly when it comes to supplier diversity and top management positions.

The NAACP’s Opportunities & Diversity Report Card graded the five largest hotels (Marriott, Wyndam, Hyatt, Starwood and Hilton) on three main criteria: workforce and job development, contracting and procurement, and ownership (if and where applicable). Marriott International received an overall B grade – the highest rating of all the hotels – with the remaining hotels scoring either a C+ or C.

“An A is on target, that is all it is,” said NAACP President and CEO, Ben Jealous during a news conference. “A [grade of] B is falling behind. A C is failure and we see that most of this industry has a C. An F means that your house is really on fire, that you have a big problem that could create an additional big problem. Three years from now any corporation that is not gathering diversity data from all of its franchisees will receive an F from the NAACP. Every one of these companies is on notice that if nothing changes they will receive an F in 2015.”

Even more disturbing to Jealous and others is that the Report Card revealed only 8% of total dollars spent for goods and services went to companies owned by people of color despite the fact that they comprise 36% of the adult population and only a dismal 1% of supplier contracts went to black-owned companies although individuals in this group encompass 12% of the populace. Jealous, the young leader of the nations oldest civil rights group, opined “diversity in the country is in many ways stuck and is some ways sliding back.”

Richard Snow, former chair of National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners [NCBMP], likened the report to a “bible” for professionals of color in the travel industry. NCBMP’s motto is ‘We Do Business With Our Friends’.” NCBMP represent s some 300 organizations that pump $40 billion annually into hotels nationwide.

“We will ask each and every one of [our members] to include in their RFP’s a request for the EEO1 form, which pretty much tells you what a hotel is doing by means of diversity. That’s important because if we are going to continue to put $40 billion into this industry than we need to have some say so in supplier diversity, employee diversity, management and hiring. We want to see people in this industry that look like us.”

“There is a role here to be played for every family that is planning a family reunion,” adds Jealous.

“This is the most basic relationship we have with business when we bring them our family, our association, our church group and it’s a place where we think we can get traction.”

The report also found that racial minorities are well-represented on the non-management level, especially in semi-skilled and unskilled positions. However, African Americans and other people of color are “poorly represented in upper management positions and governing body membership,” it concluded.

“It’s a new day for us in that we are reengaging this aspect of the legacy that’s going to be a focus you’re going see with us over the foreseeable future,” said Dedrick Muhammad, NAACP Senior Director of Economic Development.

“African Americans are pretty well represented in unskilled jobs; they are not as well represented in senior management. All those upper-middle class and middle-class college graduates they want to be upper management so they will care a lot about any efforts to help open the doors for them. It’s a lot to ask someone just staying the night to get an EEOreport and look at it. That’s why we are here at the National Convention of Black Meeting Planners because these are paid professionals who are looking at several different hotels and then they are deciding where they are going to invest major money into a hotel. We have already heard that they are willing to do this type of advocacy.”

So is this merely more racial rhetoric or will this report card resonate with results? Andrew Ingraham, President of National Association of Black Hotel Owners [NABHOOD], believes it will impact the lodging industry.

“This is a great opportunity for the NAACP to do something that’s meaningful for this industry and for the country,” he said. “It’s an ongoing struggle for diversity and inclusion in this industry. If the NAACP sticks to its guns and creates some programming with its partners, you will see ownership; you will see employment; you will see supply and diversity changes if we can get African Americans to really be mindful of how we spend that $40 billion.”

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