Sleeping With The Enemy

Hotel industry first target of NAACP payback initiative

Money talks. And when you represent some $200 million of it, you can be extremely persuasive. Or so the NAACP hopes. The civil rights organization is banking that a recent survey of the hotel industry will influence where national black organizations spend their convention dollars in the future.

The hotel industry received a resounding “F” in a survey documenting how the industry relates to African Americans in terms of adequete employment, franchise ownership and vendor relationships. And more than just another clarion call, dollar figures were attached to this initiative. The NAACP has allied with 55 ocher national black groups, including the Congressional Black Caucus and National Bar Association, representing some $200 million in potential hotel fees. According to the NAACP, the combined organizations represent approximately 9 million professionals nationwide. Each group has agreed to heed the survey before planning future conventions.

NAACP CEO Kweisi Mfume says the leading hotel chains were found severely wanting when surveyed on African American employment, vendor relationships, investment and franchise opportunities, advertising and charitable giving issues. Survey questions included “How many of your vendors are African American-owned companies?” and “What products or services are currency being provided by black-owned companies?” Another question, “How many African Americans were employed in decision-making positions such as general manager roles,” was answered by only one of the surveyed hotels, the Marriott, which has at least three African American general managers in their full-service hotels. “That is an important issue,” Mfume says. “We can do more than just dean hotels.”

As a first step, Mfume canceled a previously scheduled NAACP regional leadership conference that was to be held at a DoubleTree Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas. DoubleTree officials never responded to the survey.
Tabulation of the questionnaire was based on a rating system reflecting the proportion of the U.S. population that is African American, 13%. The rankings were as follows: 0%-5.9% = D; 6%9.9% = C; 10%-13.9% = B; and 14% and above = A. Within the five categories, each question was graded and could receive a maximum of four points, with 4.0 representing an “A” and 0.0 equaling an “F”. The points were then totaled for each category and divided by the number of questions in the survey.

As of press time, NAACP officials indicated they were updating the survey to include hotels that had not participated during the first round. Several hotel heads indicated they would have participated during the first session but missed the organization’s deadline.

The hotels that responded to some degree included Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Adam’s Mark, Ritz-Carlton, ITT Sheraton, Promus, which owns Embassy Suites and Hampton Inn, and HFS Inc., the hotel and real-estate brokerage franchiser whose acquisitions include Howard Johnson, Days Inn and Ramada. Others who did not provide information and received an “F” include Westin, Best Western, Radisson, Renaissance, Choice, Holiday Inn, Omni and DoubleTree.

As a result of the survey, the NAACP created the Consumer Guide to the Hotel Industry. While not calling for an outright boycott of the surveyed hotel chains, Mfume hopes corporate and civic organizations, as well

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