One of the notable aspects of the annual International African-American Hotel Ownership & Investment Summit held by NABHOOD at Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami, Fla., is the large contingent of our industry's future leaders. Of the approximately 300 attendees at the conference, more than 40 hospitality students from schools such as Tuskegee University, Penn State, and the College of The Bahamas, to name a few, were on hand to absorb all of the knowledge they could from hospitality industry professionals on hand. And, NABHOOD president Andy Ingraham couldn’t have been more pleased.
During his opening remarks, Ingraham pointed out the changing face of the hospitality industry as a younger generation of leaders begins to enter an industry that, like many U.S. industries, will soon see the retirements of the baby boomer generation. As Ingraham and Hemant Patel, chairman of the Asian-American Hotel Owners Association, alluded to during their remarks, that future presents opportunities for minority hoteliers.
Attendees at the conference also looked at the future of hotel development. While Jan Freitag of STR and Robert Mandelbaum of Colliers PKF Hospitality pointed out the lack of current funding for new build properties, many attendees were looking ahead in the recovery. Many said that starting to develop now can help hotels be set up for two years down the road when rate is expected to make much more significant progress than it is today. As Mandelbaum said, “Room rate won’t seriously begin to climb until 2012.” Freitag pointed out to the audience that low average daily rates for group, which were negotiated during the recession, will take at least a year to burn off.
Meanwhile, Daniel Halpern, an Atlanta-based restaurateur and board member of the Corporation for Travel Promotion, looked ahead to the corporation’s work to market the United States to international travelers for the first time ever. He said that from 2000 to 2010, the U.S. lost 78 million visitors, equating to 467,000 jobs. He said that each international visitor spends an average of $4,000 per trip and that for every $175,000 spent by international tourists, a new job is created.
One of the highlights of the conference didn’t deal with the future, but a very ugly past. Keynote speaker Hank Thomas, president of Victoria Hospitality and one of the original 13 Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights era, addressed the crowd with a powerful speech detailing what he said was “the reason you can own hotels today.” He recounted his experience during the 1960s and pointed out that the struggles of the past have led to an opportunity for today’s minority business owners.