Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel

Ken Middleton is the vice president of sales at the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. He has received numerous awards for sales and performance and is an active member in numerous organizations including the NCBMP. In his position, Middleton is responsible for management, compliance, budgeting and overall daily operations of the sales department, where he’s also charged with acquiring new business in both the mainstream and multicultural markets.

The Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau has been a huge supporter of diversity and this magazine for years.  “The Fort Worth CVB and the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce have had an ongoing and accountable relationship for over 20 years,” says David DuBois, president and CEO of the CVB.  One of the first of its kind partnerships enables both organizations to attend national trade shows, presentations and meetings to attract business and conventions to this most unique of American cities.

Fort Worth also has a dedicated national sales manager in Velenda Dewberry whose primary focus is the African-American meetings market.  Dewberry is a member of numerous African-American organizations at the local and national levels.

Most of the time we focus on the success of CVB’s when writing about diversity but we would like to acknowledge a few of our hospitality friends and their total commitment to diversity.

The Hilton Hotel brands have been an industry leader in the battle for equality. At the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers (NABHOOD) a few years back Ernest Wooden, executive vice president, Brand Management for Hilton explained to the attendees that Hilton is in locked step with NABHOOD on diversity. Bonuses for senior management at every single Hilton across the country is tied to diversity, Wooden told the crowd. “And we do it not only because it’s right but because there is money to be made through diversity. We know the buying potential of minorities. And we need people working in hotels that look just like people buying within hotels.” Over half of the Hilton workforce is comprised of minorities and women.

Hilton Hotels Corporation’s commitment to diversity starts from the top with priorities established by the Board of Directors with the direction of its diversity committee. Hilton diversity programs run across all their core businesses and encompass their entire base of operations. Their comprehensive diversity program includes; suppliers, advertising campaigns, franchise development, training programs, mentoring programs, hotel management, corporate management measurements and charitable giving.

Stephen F. Bollenbach, president & CEO of Hilton has stated publicly on numerous occasions that its nice to receive awards, plaques and trophies as a result of the company’s diversity program, but “our achievements in diversity programming and the priority we place on it go to the very heart, soul and spirit of our organization.”

Marriott Hotel’s diversity program started almost 20 years ago when they became the first hospitality company to implement a diversity program targeting human resources training, development and recruitment. In 2005, Marriott set a goal of 500 minority-owned or franchised hotels and $1 billion spent with minority suppliers by 2010. As we close 2007, they are well on their way to achieving that goal.

Marriott’s has been acknowledged numerous times for their achievements in diversity. Below is a short list: Essence magazine named Marriott one of the 25 greatest places for women to work. Black MBA magazine named Marriott International on their “Top 50 Companies for MBA’s to work.” They have also received acknowledgement from NABHOOD, Black Enterprises, The Black Collegian, DiversityInc and the NAACP has ranked the chain consistently at the top in the annual lodging industry report card.

One would have to be in a coma not to have heard of the success story that is J. Terrence Lanni and the team at the MGM Mirage when it comes to diversity. They are far and away the gaming leader in diversity and one of the top organizations anywhere in the world regardless of industry. This is an organization that is truly proud of their accomplishments and works even harder to maintain and improve their edge.

I had the distinct pleasure of attending their diversity celebration earlier this year and it was amazing to witness the number of people on hand to listen to Lanni, CEO of MGM Mirage and others discuss their company’s commitment to diversity. Lanni believes strongly that “we (MGM Mirage) are evolving with the recognition that the values of diversity are the values of the community and ultimately the values on which America has prospered.”

MGM Mirage established the gaming industry’s first voluntary diversity initiative in 2000 and annually reports on their performance to demonstrate transparency and accountability. Last year (2006) MGM Mirage had a total minority employment of just over 56 percent. Thirty-two percent of the MGM Mirage management positions are held by a minority. Also in 2006, MGM Mirage spent over $150 million in billable goods and services with minority enterprises. That figure represents 11 percent of their procurement spending. On the construction front MGM Mirage spent $1.3 billion in 2006, of that total figure $247 million went to minority, women and other disadvantaged business owners.

The MGM Mirage Diversity program is so complete that they employed the services of Crear Creative Group, a minority-owned advertising agency to design a mascot to symbolize their commitment to diversity. The result of their efforts was the creation of a lion composed of mosaic pieces that stands as a powerful symbol of the company’s identity, unity and prominence of their diversity initiative.

Brian Parker became Choice Hotels International’s first African-American vice president back in 2005 as VP of Emerging Markets and New Business Development — a division he actually created two years earlier. Parker’s mission was to expand and develop the Choice brand by selling franchises to minority developers and other successful entrepreneurs outside the lodging industry. When Parker created the division and took on this monumental task there was just one African American owner.

By 2005, Choice Hotels International’s Minority Incentive Program had made a significant dent in minority ownership as development deals increased 260 percent in just two years. Choice has hosted numerous events targeting emerging markets and launched Choice Hotels African American Owners Alliance. This alliance is a place for owners to network and serves as a platform for recruiting.

There are times when ingenuity and creativity are needed to tackle diversity and equality — traits Parker possesses in abundance. Parker joined Choice Hotels back in 1998. He pitched an idea based on his experiences as a high school and college basketball player. Parker knew that high school and college sports teams spent a great deal of time traveling and staying in hotels. While professional teams stay in luxury hotels, college and high school teams are on tight budgets. So Parker wrote a business plan and presented to senior management. That plan was implemented in 2001. By 2005 it had generated approximately $15 million in revenues that year alone.

The individuals and organizations mentioned here are just some of the many that have made great strides in our industry. Only through our continued efforts will we be able to achieve a balanced playing field that will make all Americans true participants in all this country has to offer.
TOP 30 CVBS FOR DIVERSITY (for sidebar)

(in random order)

  1. Greater Miami CVB
  2. Oregon CVSN
  3. Greater Birmingham CVB
  4. Detroit Metro CVB
  5. Atlanta CVB
  6. New Orleans Metropolitan CVB
  7. Philadelphia CVB
  8. Visit Charlotte
  9. Virginia Beach CVB
  10. Oakland CVB
  11. Phoenix CVB
  12. San Diego CVB
  13. Denver Metro CVB
  14. Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB
  15. Tampa Bay CVB
  16. Greater Wichita CVB
  17. Shreveport-Bossier CTB
  18. Baltimore Area CVA
  19. Greater Minneapolis CVA
  20. Natchez CVB
  21. Jackson CVB
  22. Greensboro CVB
  23. Columbia Metropolitan CVB
  24. Hampton CVB
  25. Knoxville TSC
  26. Memphis CVB
  27. Austin CVB
  28. Ft. Worth CVB
  29. Greater Houston CVB
  30. Norfolk CVB
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