Marriott Creates $50 Million Hotel Development Program for More Diverse Ownership


NEW YORK – Marriott International has announced a $50 million program called Bridging the Gap to further diversify its hotel development and ownership partners.

Marriott executives met with members of the media and Howard University students on the first day of the NYU International Hospitality Investment Conference to explain its new development program.

The Bridge the Gap program will offer a series of incentives to qualified owners, said Noah Silverman, Marriott’s global development manager for the United States and Canada. These incentives will include reduced application fees, working capital for specific projects, reduced royalties and training programs. On an individual basis, Marriott can contribute between $500,000 and $1 million per qualifying project through these incentives.

Collectively, that initial seed funding amounts to $50 million from the company to support those projects, he said.

“If we’re as successful as we’d hoped on this front, we see ourselves creating up to $1 billion in asset value among underrepresented homeowners,” he said.

Bridge the Gap is for homeowners in the United States and Canada at this time, Silverman said. Although Marriott’s diversity goals are global, diversity takes on different meanings in different countries, he said.

The $500,000 to $1 million per project is a combination of the different incentives the program will offer, he said. Typically, the price for the key is paid when the hotel opens, and while it’s not something Marriott has often done for its select-service hotels, it’s something the company agrees to do in this program.

Overall, some of these incentives come directly from Marriott’s balance sheet, while others are aimed at reducing the cost the owner would otherwise have to pay, he said.

Diversity, equity and inclusion have been an integral part of Marriott’s people-centric culture for many years, and the company has focused on that through the lens of ownership, Silverman said. Years ago, it set a revised goal of having 3,000 diverse hotel owners by 2025.

To achieve this, he has partnered with several leading organizations, such as the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers and the Latino Hotel Association as well as Tracy Prigmore and her “She Has a Deal”. program. Marriott also held diversity ownership summits at its corporate headquarters to provide educational opportunities for interested investors and also as part of recruiting efforts.

“While we can claim some credit for the success, in some areas there continue to be particular groups that are significantly underrepresented among our owners and franchisees,” he said, referring specifically to Black Homeowners, Women Homeowners, Latino and Hispanic Homeowners, and Native American and Native Homeowners.

The most common hurdle Marriott heard about was funding, Silverman said.

“Unquestionably, access to capital has been identified as the number one barrier to entry for these groups,” he said. “It was just a repeated theme of all the conversations we had.”

Marriott does not invest cavalierly in hotel projects, CEO Tony Capuano said. It invests in projects that leaders deem strategically important to fill important gaps in its footprint. The company’s investment also has the power to attract lenders to the project, which is why the company has not limited the program to mere presentation and training.

The ability to penetrate the debt market will be key to helping some of these potential owners, he said.

“Our willingness to invest in them and their projects, combined with leveraging some of the long-standing lender relationships we enjoy, will be critical to the success of this program,” he said.

The 95-year-old company has focused on welcoming everyone, Capuano said, including guests, associates, business partners, owners and franchisees. Marriott offers several programs focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, and recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Board-level Inclusion and Social Impact Committee.

The Bridge the Gap program is a continuation of those efforts, he said, noting that while the company is designed for rapid growth, that can only be achieved on the shoulders and balance sheets of its owner and its community of franchisees.

Marriott executives will keep tabs on aggregate statistics and data on individual groups that represent its ownership community, he said.

“So today’s announcement is really about a commitment, both in terms of collective effort, but also balance sheet, to try to foster diverse ownership in communities that aren’t as well represented,” did he declare.

One of the first questions guests ask Marriott is how the company’s core values ​​align with their own, said Julius Robinson, director of sales and marketing, US and Canada. This includes questions about Marriott’s DEI efforts.

“Companies want to do business with people who share the same values,” he said. “As you know, particularly in the United States, there is tremendous interest in how we are becoming more diverse as a country in terms of business and economic environment.”

There are investment dollars in these communities, but they don’t necessarily know the power of plugging them into a network like Marriott’s, he said. This program will create an opportunity to further engage and spread the word.

“I think the initial investment makes a real statement, that we’re serious about it,” he said. “It starts a conversation that has an endless amount of opportunity.”

Marriott has devoted significant time and effort to supplier diversity, ensuring it purchases goods and services from women-owned and minority-owned businesses, President Stephanie Linnartz said. He’s spent around $6 billion on such ventures over the past decade, so he’s made some headway there.

Marketing-wise, Marriott’s Love Travels campaign began in 2014 and focused on the LGBTQ community, but it has expanded to all customer segments, she said.

“Now it’s expanded even further, this idea of ​​Love Travels, we all welcome, to mean owners, supplies, not just customers and associates,” she said.

One area where the Marriott needs more progress is in hotel ownership, she said.

Hotels are the economic engines of many communities, and that requires thinking about diversity and inclusion for everyone involved, Linnartz said.

“It’s also about economic empowerment,” she said. “If we want to see diverse groups, women, people of color, grow and have a greater impact in society, it’s about economic empowerment.”

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