Having founded the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers 15 years ago and holding a conference each year on a golf course in sunny Southern Florida, Andy Ingraham clearly has an agenda. But that agenda just might not be what you think.
As Ingraham opened the 15th annual NABHOOD conference at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami on Wednesday, he shed some light on why he is so passionate about NABHOOD. Yes, he wants to make money. Yes, he wants to increase the percentage of African American hotel owners throughout the industry. But Ingraham isn’t focused on ways to help hoteliers climb out of the recession in 2011. His sights are set on the more distant future. With his success, Ingraham feels a certain responsibility and is dead set on bringing success to future generations of black hoteliers.
“Our goal is very simple: to change the paradigm of this industry,” he said. “Each of us will make a small contribution, and that will create a great ripple in the ocean of success.”
Ingraham called to the students in the audience, a group of special invitees that make up a large part of NABHOOD’s attendance each year. “They are the future of this industry,” he said. “Yes, we all want to be successful and make money, but it begins with that little encouragement. Each one of us has a responsibility to work hard for our success.”
Ingraham unveiled Wednesday that NABHOOD is committed to raising US$1 million for a NABHOOD student scholarship fund.
“If we don’t create an opportunity for these children, then we failed in what we set out to do,” he said.
Ingraham said there are more than 500 black-owned hotels in the United States today. He wants NABHOOD to eventually emulate the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, of which members own 42% of all hotels in the U.S.
“If we work hard, good things should happen,” Ingraham said.
For that reason, speakers were chosen deliberately for NABHOOD’s opening session.
Mike Roberts, chairman of Roberts Hotels LLC, told members of the NABHOOD audience—often African-Americans who are looking for ways to break into the industry for the first time—that now is the time to get involved.
“We at NABHOOD think this is the time to invest,” he said. “In 2011 I bought my 12th hotel, in Detroit. Why Detroit, you ask? Because Detroit has more African-Americans than any other city in the world, outside of Africa.”
Sheila Johnson, founder and CEO of Salamander Hospitality, stressed the importance of patience in the hospitality industry. Johnson is developing a third Salamander Resort and Spa in Middleburg, Virginia, which was initially scheduled to open in 2011 and was pushed back until Spring 2013.
“When the winds start changing, one of the smartest things you can do is slow down,” she said. “You have one chance to open a hotel, and if you open at the wrong time you’re dead in the water.”
Johnson continues to develop business opportunities that support minorities, and she commended NABHOOD on its continued efforts. “We have the chance to start building wealth within the African American community … for generations,” she said.
Mit Shah, CEO of Noble Investment Group, said successful hoteliers share common traits: They know the operations side of the business; they surround themselves with great partners—on the brand side, debt side and equity side; and they grew very disciplined businesses.
“My parents taught me that you have to think beyond your ego,” Shah said. “How do you bring people together to make money together and do something that’s bigger than yourself?”
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