CHAINS CHASE MINORITY FRANCHISEES

Several lodging chains have stepped up their efforts to lure minority developers and franchisees through financial incentives, preferred services and access to capital. Here's the latest news from three brand companies:

  • Starwood Hotels & Resorts last month launched a hotel developer and owner program that gives small minority developers access to services and benefits generally reserved for developers who have committed to multiple Starwood projects. Under the program, qualified minority developers can get assistance with site selection and are assigned a Starwood development consultant for each project.

    Also, in conjunction with Merrill Lynch, Starwood offers minority developers senior and mezzanine or subordinated financing at attractive rates and terms.

  • Choice Hotels has taken a different tack. The company launched separate owner alliances for African-American and Hispanic owners to provide networking opportunities to share best practices and to serve as a platform to recruit additional minority franchisees. So far, the alliances have a combined 30 members.

    In addition, Choice launched a development incentive program for qualified African-American, Hispanic and Native American developers seeking to build Sleep Inn properties. The program features an array of deal sweeteners with a value of up to $155,000.

  • Marriott International's ongoing minority recruitment program is bearing fruit. The company has added five African-American- and Hispanic-owned hotels since May, increasing its portfolio of minority- and women-owned hotels to 300.

African-American-owned RLJ Development bought three Marriott properties, including full-service Marriotts in Chicago and Atlanta and a Courtyard in Annapolis Junction, MD. The Finvarb Group, a Miami-based Hispanic company, opened a Residence Inn in Chantilly, VA, while Hospitality Development Co., an African-American real estate investor, opened a TownePlace Suites in Bowie, Md.

According to Marriott Senior Vice President Norman Jenkins, the company recently expanded its diversity goals, pledging to double the number of properties owned by minority owners in the next five years.

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