Last week eight hotel executives, a marketing executive, and a Nevada state assemblywoman did something that Bill Fortier, senior vice president-development, the Americas at Hilton Worldwide and chairman of the Latino Hotel Association described to those in attendance as “fun, and a bit shocking.” In the Pavilion at Tropicana in Las Vegas, the executives ditched their business suits and donned headgear and boxing gloves and promptly began pummeling each other.
I was lucky enough to be ringside to witness the association’s new signature fundraising event, Battle of the Brands (full disclosure: I served as a judge) and let me tell you, it was quite a scene. After months of buildup, the five bouts where nothing short of entertaining for the gathered crowd, and five winners got to take home belts as prizes. But the real winners of the event were future hoteliers—particularly those of Latin American descent.
Proceeds from the fundraiser went to endowments for Latino hospitality students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the University of Houston, and Temple University. And, deans from all three schools were on hand for the event, which Angela Gonzalez-Rowe, president of the association says is to become the association’s signature fundraiser and attraction at future conferences.
But boxing aside, the inaugural LHA conference centered its two days around the idea of education and building minority ownership of hotels.
That idea was the basis of the “View From The Top” panel discussion, of which I had the pleasure of moderating. Fortier; Rajiv Trivedi, executive vice president of franchise development at La Quinta Inns & Suites; Tye Turman, senior vice president of North America select service development at Marriott International; and Michel Montant, corporate director of development for Grupo Posadas; not only discussed the state of the industry and development opportunities, but also the need to recruit and educate potential Latino hotel owners into the industry.
As Gonzalez-Rowe also pointed out, “We need to educate on things such as asset management and lending procedures for Latinos interested in the industry.”
Many of the sessions at the conference hammered that point home concentrating on various aspects of entering the lodging business, including how to negotiate a franchise or management agreement; learning operations, and strategic operations in high-threat areas.
Another highlight of the conference was a discussion led to Simon T. Bailey of the Brilliance Institute, who inspired the audience to think differently about branding and to use an emotional branding approach to marketing hotels.
For those that attended the inaugural conference, it was an excellent opportunity to learn how to help build the future of the industry through minority ownership; something the panelists on the View From The Top panel all said was vital to the long-range success of the industry. And afterward, they all got to see their fellow colleagues step into the ring and fight for the education of future hoteliers.