Diversity Initiatives Working for Marriott

Marriott International today announced that its ambitious minority outreach efforts have resulted in the addition of five African American- and Hispanic-owned hotels since May, increasing its minority- and women-held hotels to nearly 300. The new minority-owned hotels are in Chicago, Atlanta, Virginia and Maryland, where two of the properties are located.
“Marriott has made increasing the number of women and minority owners who do business with us a priority,” said J.W. Marriott, Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Marriott International. “I am pleased that our diversity outreach is working. Minority hotel ownership is good for our company and can have an important beneficial economic impact on the communities where Marriott does business.”


        RLJ Development, LLC, an African American privately held real estate investment company, has acquired three Marriott properties: the 111-room Chicago Marriott at Medical District/UIC; the 15-floor, 282-room Atlanta Marriott Century Center; and the 140-room Courtyard Fort Meade at National Business Park in Annapolis Junction, Md. Thomas J. Baltimore, Jr., is the president of the Bethesda-based RLJ Development LLC, which was founded by Chairman and CEO Robert L. Johnson.

        The RLJ properties in Chicago and Atlanta are those cities’ only full- service African American-owned franchised hotels, according to Andy Ingraham, president of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers (NABHOOD).

        As part of RLJ’s acquisition, the Atlanta Marriott will undergo a $15 million renovation that will add elegantly appointed bathrooms, luxurious bedding and updated electronics. RLJ is the largest African American wholly owned real estate investment company in the U.S. with approximately $400 million in assets. With its recent
acquisitions, RLJ now owns seven Marriott properties.


    The Finvarb Group, a Hispanic-owned corporation based in Miami, Fla., owns the new 123-room Residence Inn Chantilly Dulles South in Chantilly, Va. It is the firm’s third Marriott. Hospitality Development Company, LLC, an African American privately held real estate investment company based in Washington, D.C., owns the new 119-room TownePlace Suites Bowie - Town Center in Bowie, Md. This is Hospitality Development Company’s second Marriott property.
   
“These companies have a keen understanding of existing and emerging development opportunities. We look forward to additional transactions with each of them,” said Norman Jenkins, senior vice president of North American Lodging Development for Marriott, who has developed programs aimed at developing minority ownership.

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    In January, Marriott announced expanded goals for its diversity outreach, including pledging to double the number of properties owned by minority owners and franchises in five years. Other recent successes include the groundbreaking earlier this year of a Courtyard by Marriott hotel in Harlem, N.Y., with significant minority ownership; the opening of the Residence Inn by Marriott Capitol in Washington, D.C., which is co-owned by four American Indian tribes; and the acquisition of the Residence Inn Columbia in Maryland, owned by Integrated Capital, an African American privately owned real estate equity group.

    “Marriott’s diversity initiatives align with our goal to increase the number of African American-owned hotels to 500 in five years,” said Ingraham.
    The elegant, European-style Chicago Marriott at Medical District/UIC is minutes from downtown Chicago and one block from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Rush Medical Center. The Atlanta Marriott Century Center is 15 minutes north of downtown Atlanta. Courtyard by Marriott Fort Meade, a business- and leisure-friendly hotel, is one mile from the Fort Meade Army base and 14 miles from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

    Marriott regularly holds workshops to provide information about how it assesses prospective sites, along with information on how hotels are built, financed and operated. These workshops are conducted by Marriott executives, owners and franchisees, as well as experts from the lending community. The events not only give aspiring hotelowners an opportunity to learn about the lodging industry, they also provide a forum for them to meet current owners and franchisees. Educating prospective owners and franchisees is vitally important to Marriott’s diversity ownership initiative, because many people interested in becoming owners have substantial business experience but limited lodging experience.

    Marriott’s aggressive diversity ownership initiatives assist minorities who have significant business experience and are interested in developing hotels or taking equity positions in hotels under development by Marriott or its development partners. The lodging leader’s outreach includes providing minorities and women with additional operations support, as well as flexible application and royalty fee terms, credit enhancement, or other funds used to support the deal or prepare the hotel for opening.
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