Choice Hotels creates franchise-focused group for black American hoteliers

For fifteen years, Choice Hotels has reinforced its longstanding commitment to diversity through its Emerging Markets program. In early December, Choice launched Choice Hotels Owners African American Alliance (CHOAAA), the hospitality industry’s only franchisee group dedicated to Black and African American hoteliers. CHOAAA will provide ongoing representation, support and advocacy to these underrepresented entrepreneurs. The objectives of CHOAAA include:

  • Ensure that Black and African American owners fully experience all the benefits associated with owning Choice brand hotels.
  • Fully integrate Black and African American hotel owners, employees and suppliers into the Choice Hotels system.
  • Collaborate and recognize the importance of Black and African Americans to the overall success of the business.
  • Advise Choice management in areas such as communication, innovation, ideation, creativity and decision-making.

BLACK CORPORATE spoke with John Lancaster, Regional Vice President of Emerging Markets, Franchise Development and Owner Relations, to learn more about CHOAAA and the importance of this initiative.

John Lancaster, Regional Vice President of Emerging Markets, Franchise Development and Owner Relations for Choice Hotels

BE: Last year, we covered Choice’s Emerging Markets program, which focuses on recruiting minorities for ownership opportunities. How does CHOAAA build on this?

John Lancaster: The Emerging Markets program assists minorities with the application and ownership process, particularly with regard to the financial support needed to become an owner. The creation of CHOAAA further underscores our commitment to support and advocate. It tells potential owners that by entering Choice, you will be in business for yourself, not by yourself. It offers African Americans the opportunity to engage with leaders on key initiatives and have their voices heard. We are here with you every step of the way.

Do you have a goal in mind in terms of percentage of African American ownership that you are looking to achieve?

Lancaster: The highest possible ! 70% of our hotels are already owned by minorities. According to NABHOOD, there were 57,466 hotels in the United States as of May 2020, but only 1,000 are owned by African Americans and 500 by Latinx, according to the Latin Hotel Association. Choice would like to see these numbers increase significantly. We are here to educate and provide opportunity. While financial capital can be difficult, it is something that can be solved. Often it is intellectual capital that is the real challenge for new and existing owners and what we hope to solve through CHOAAA.

We awarded over 250 franchise deals to underrepresented minorities and veterans: 34 in 2019. In 2020 during Covid, we awarded 22 franchises to African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and veterans.

You have eight delegates among the initial members of CHOAAA with impressive names. Frederic Washington is the vice president, and he previously served as head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Florida under Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama and Washington recently signed the largest deal minority multi-unit franchise in the history of Choice’s Emerging Markets Franchise Development Program to develop six hotels across Florida. You also have Chanel scholarship, whom we had the pleasure of interviewing recently. Is there a natural transition from a particular industry for owners to turn to hospitality?

Lancaster: That’s a great question. In fact, I met Chanel at a NABHOOD (National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers) convention a few years ago. She told me they owned a multi-unit Tropical Smoothie franchise and were working on opening a Hand & Stone spa. She knew nothing about the hospitality industry but said it was a long-term goal. We’ve talked about locations, demographics, and the various demand drivers that need to be considered. It’s a long process, usually 2-4 years. I went through everything step by step. Fast forward and now they’ve created TLC Hospitality Group and are currently developing a dual-branded Sleep Inn and MainStay Suites location in North Carolina.

We have a wide variety of business people and entrepreneurs who choose to become owners with Choice. Larry Tripplett, who is also a CHOAAA delegate, is a former NFL player for the Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks. He owns a Comfort Suites in Glendale, Arizona. Tripplett is part of an entrepreneurial family, as his father, Larry Tripplett, Sr. is president of the Black McDonalds Owner Association.

Ultimately, if you want to learn more about the hospitality industry and franchise ownership, just contact Choice. We can help you find the right path.

Choice Hotels MainStay Suites
Choice Hotels MainStay Suites

Why is it important to increase the number of African American hoteliers?

Lancaster: According to the first phase of MMGY Travel’s Black Traveler: Insights, Opportunities & Priorities report, Black American travelers spent $109.4 billion on travel in 2019, or nearly 13% of the U.S. leisure travel market. Their survey of meeting planners showed that 84% of black meeting planners said some destinations are more welcoming than others. Forty-two percent said their attendees felt unwelcome in certain places. Choice is working hard to change that. We’ve even created a program, launching in 2021, where we partner with HBCU to create rotational hospitality internships.

For more information about Choice Hotels’ emerging markets program and development opportunities, visit choicehotelsdevelopment.com/incentives.

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