- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 10, 2000

Blacks are still finding it difficult to reach top-level positions in the hotel industry, despite increased employment opportunities, according to a new survey by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The hotel industry as a whole has received a grade of C- in the fourth annual NAACP Lodging Industry Report Card.

The annual survey grades hotels on their hiring practices, franchise opportunities offered to blacks and the use of black contractors. The hotels are also graded on their charitable donations and the use of black-owned advertising agencies.

Marriott International, based in Bethesda, Md., ranks at the top of the list with a B. Choice Hotels International, based in Silver Spring, Md., earned a C, while Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, based in Dallas, got a D, the lowest grade in the survey.

The NAACP began the industry analysis in 1997 and believes the hotel business has made little progress since then in terms of board appointments, employee advancement, contracting opportunities and advertising relationships.

"Sustained progress has not been as fast as we had hoped, nor has it been as fast as it has been promised," said NAACP President and Chief Executive Kweisi Mfume in a statement.

"I am pleased to see that many African-Americans have been able to get employment in the hotel industry, but the fact is that there are still too few African-Americans working as hotel general managers and the hotel industry should do more business with minority vendors."

The 11 hotels surveyed represent the industry's largest chains and those most often used by black organizations and consumers for conventions and meetings. Annually, blacks spend more than $4.6 billion on travel and tourism.

This is the second straight year Marriott has topped the list.

In 1995, Marriott created the Minority Franchise Outreach Program, partnering with organizations such as the National Association of Black Accountants and the International Franchise Association to proactively seek and identify additional franchise candidates.

As of March, Marriott had 114 minority-owned franchised properties; 10 of them were black-owned locations.

"Here in the United States, and in all of our properties worldwide, we at Marriott see diversity as not only the right policy, but also as a source of our competitive edge," said J.W. Marriott Jr., Marriott International chairman and chief executive, in a statement. "Diversity makes us a stronger company."

In 1998, Marriott broadened its supplier-diversity initiative, committing at least $250 million to be spent with minority suppliers by the end of 2001.

Then, last year the company went a step further by asking its major suppliers to spend at least 5 percent with minority vendors.

Choice Hotels says it's continuing to look for ways to work with the NAACP and other groups that represent minorities to create more business opportunities for these groups.

"Our view is it makes good business sense," said Anne Papa Curtis, a Choice spokeswoman.

The hotel-industry report card is part of the NAACP's Economic Reciprocity Initiative, which was started in 1996 in an effort to measure corporate America's commitment to blacks.

The NAACP also has annual report cards on the cable-television industry and telecommunications industry. For the first time, the NAACP will release this month a report card on the banking and financial industry.

The report cards are meant to be a guide for black consumers in making choices about where to spend their dollars.

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