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“The Green Book, with its list of hotels, boarding houses, restaurants, beauty shops, barber shops and various other services can most certainly help solve your travel problems. . . .It was the idea of Victor H. Green, the publisher, in introducing The Green Book, to save the travelers of his race as many difficulties and embarrassments as possible,” Wendell P. Alston wrote in the 1949 edition of The Negro Traveler’s Greenbook.

“There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published,” Green himself wrote in one introduction. “That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States.” — Excerpts from, ‘Green Book Helped Keep African Americans Safe on the Road’ – PBS Independent Lens.

Green had an idea to publish a guide of safe places that African Americans could patronize as they traveled throughout the United States.  Many of Green’s friends and associates complained about the difficulties, embarrassments and dangers they faced when traveling.  Green, a postal worker, corroborated with his postal colleagues around the country and published “The Negro Motorist Green Book in 1936,” later known as “The Negro Travelers’ Green Book,” or more commonly, simply “The Green Book”.

Due to Jim Crow laws, African Americans understood that they were not welcomed in many restaurants, particularly in the Deep South.  As they traveled, African Americans would pack enough food to last them for the duration of the trip.  Eating was one obstacle, lodging was an entirely different hurdle.

42, a film produced about the great Jackie Robinson, who was one of the first African Americans to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball, highlighted how he could not room with his teammates in the same hotel.  Robinson later spoke out against Jim Crow and criticized hotels that refused him.  A number of hotels and restaurants where the Dodgers stayed integrated as a result.

The same wrought true for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  As King traveled, he would lodge at Black-owned hotels and motels.  In cities where there were no such accommodations, he would stay with friends and family as he traveled throughout the country during the Civil Rights Movement.

One of the most popular locations King lodged was the A.G. Gaston Motel, owned by multi-millionaire A.G. Gaston, who at the time was the richest African American in Alabama.  Room #30 of the A.G. Gaston Motel was called the “War Room” for King and his leaders.  It was at the A.G. Gaston Motel, where King decided to turn himself in to the Birmingham Jail, in which later he would write the ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin and thus allowed African Americans to move freely throughout the country.  The Green Book discontinued its publication soon after this bill was passed.  The first sentence of Green’s earlier quote, “There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published,” had been accomplished.  However, in 1998 Andy Ingraham, the founder of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners Operators and Developers (NABHOOD) and Founder of The Multicultural Tourism Summit and President of Horizons Marketing Group recognized that Green’s second quote, “That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States,” had not yet been achieved.

In 1998, Ingraham assembled a group of professionals to increase the number of African American owned hotels.  The group recognized that the tourism and hospitality industry did not have a considerable amount of African American owners nor did it have many top level executives.  NABHOOD formed to create more opportunities and privileges for African Americans.

Every July, Ingraham hosts the International African American Hotel Ownership & Investment Summit Trade Show (IAAHOISTS) to provide attendees with the opportunity to meet other African American hotel owners, national leaders and top industry professionals.  The summit highlights opportunities in investments and supplier diversity and hotel ownership with major hotel brands like Marriott, Hilton and Choice Hotels.   IAAHOISTS is the Crème de la Crème for African American hoteliers and for those that would like to do business with African American hoteliers.

A key issue that was mentioned on several panels of this year’s IAAHOISTS is the increasing threat of Airbnb taking away market share from the hotel industry.  Boston University recently revised a previously published study from 2013 titled, “The Rise of the Sharing Economy: Estimating the Impact of Airbnb on the Hotel Industry,” by Georgios Zervas, Davide Proserpio and John W. Byers.  The publication summated that in Austin, Texas “Airbnb’s inventory has grown rapidly over the past few years, resulting in an estimated revenue impact of 8-10% for the most vulnerable hotels in our data.”  Many hotel owners across the country are aware that this trend could begin to impact their bottom line.

Hotelier Mike Roberts who currently owns the Roberts Riverwalk Hotel in Detroit suggested that investors use the changing market of things like Trip Advisor and Airbnb when negotiating with brands who typically take their “12% royalty fee off of the top”.

If you speak with Ingraham for any period of time in regards to the success of NABHOOD, he will make you aware that when the organization started there were less than 10 African American owned hotels around the country.  Since that time, NABHOOD has been responsible for fostering an environment that has led to hotel acquisitions, numerous development partnerships and a drastic increase in African American ownership.  A rising star who owes much of his hotel ownership and development success to NABHOOD is Evens Charles, the founder and managing principal of Frontier Development & Hospitality Group LLC.

Charles told the story to Lodging Magazine that “It was 2007, and my barber told me about a Washington, D.C., developer who was an African-American who developed the Royal Palms in South Beach,” he says. “So I Googled the guy, read his book, and was so inspired.” That developer was R. Donahue Peebles, who was the chairman of NABHOOD at the time.  “I found out they were having a conference that week, so I just jumped on a plane and went,” he says. “I met a lot of people there and became extremely inspired.”

Charles got his start in real estate by developing residential properties.  Frontier Development & Hospitality Group, LLC has since acquired and developed hotel assets with a total capitalization of over $125 million, completing over 75 real estate transactions since its inception.  Frontier Development & Hospitality Group, LLC and its partner Kana Hotels recently acquired a 221 room Embassy Suites in Columbus, Ohio from RLJ Lodging Trust, whose founder and managing principal is Bob Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television.  One piece of advice that Charles gave to attendees at this year’s conference was, “you do not want to get into the business of picking employees.  Let the hotel management company do that.  I am personally involved in the hiring of the GM and the Sales Manager.”

Today, there are close to 700 African American owned hotels in the United States.  African Americans currently own hotels in every major market in the U.S. from Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, Dallas, Atlanta to Washington, D.C.  The 1,175 room Washington Marriott Marquis Convention Center Hotel which is located within walking distance to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. is owned by Capstone Development Corp., managing principal, Norman Jenkins.  Jenkins is currently developing two more hotels in the Washington, D.C. area.

The Embassy Suites outside of Los Angeles in Downey on 8425 Firestone Boulevard is owned by RLJ Lodging Trust.  The 860 room Doubletree Manhattan on 569 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, NY is also owned by RLJ Lodging Trust.  RLJ Lodging Trust is also one of the few African American owned companies that is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.  The stock symbol is RLJ and it is currently trading at $20.79.

There has been an outcry from the African American community because of the unjustified violence towards African American men and women from police officers.  This outcry led to the #BankBlack Movement which challenged African Americans to move their money to African American owned financial institutions.  Thousands of accounts have been opened and more than $30 million dollars have transferred into African American-owned banks.  We must also challenge our African American community to support our African American-owned hotels and to #TravelBlack!

The next International African American Hotel Ownership & Investment Summit Trade Show will take place in the summer of 2017 in South Beach, FL.  Register today by logging on to http://nabhood.net.

The Green Book has ceased its publication, however http://millionstwoone.com, the Largest African American Business Directory in the world has emerged listing thousands of African American owned businesses from hotels, restaurants, car dealerships, retail shopping locations, physicians, attorneys and much more in the United States and around the world.  Locate an African American owned hotel today on http://millionstwoone.com/listing/hotels.

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