AC Hotel by Marriott Maui Wailea

Marriott International has launched a new diverse hotel owner program called ‘Bridging The Gap’, which the chain says is aimed at addressing the barriers to entry that historically underrepresented groups face in owning and developing hotels in the United States and Canada.

Launched at the 44th Annual NYU International Hospitality Investment Conference in New York today (June 6), the program has an initial US$50 million in funding and is part of the chain’s commitment to having 3,000 diverse owned hotels by 2025.

The company could also roll-out the program to markets across the globe, including Australia, HM can exclusively reveal.

Marriott International CEO, Anthony Capuano, said recognising that access to capital constitutes a critical barrier to market entry, Marriott will offer financial and other incentives to qualified historically underrepresented owners and franchisees that will have a controlling equity interest in select branded projects.

He said the incentives will apply to new franchise applications submitted after June 1, 2022 and over three years, qualifying development projects built or converted under Marriott’s Bridging The Gap are expected to reach US$1 billion in total asset value for historically underrepresented ownership groups.

“At the heart of what we do every day is welcome all,” he said. “Whether that’s people who stay with us, work in our hotels, meet our supply needs or develop hotels that fly one of our brand flags – all are welcome.

Marriott International CEO Anthony Capuano and President Stephanie Linnartz launch ‘Bridging The Gap’

“With the establishment of Marriott’s Bridging The Gap, we are creating an on-ramp to help propel historically underrepresented groups in the journey to hotel ownership more frequently and more successfully.

“We are excited to launch Marriott’s Bridging The Gap and to continue building a more diverse owner and franchisee community,” he said.

While the program is initially aimed at the United States and Canada, Capuano exclusively told HM that Bridging The Gap could be extended into other markets across the globe.

“With all of these programs we launch, we look at opportunities to expand them or modify them as appropriate on a regional or even a global basis and we’ll continue this sort of program around the world,” he said.

Capuano said Bridging The Gap extends the company’s commitment to diversity in all areas of the company’s businesses.

“It is front of mind for every constituent we serve every day,” he told HM. “Our guests care about it deeply, our associates, our owners and ultimately, the investment community.”

According to Marriott, the announcement of Bridging The Gap program is a significant step in Marriott’s longstanding effort to increase the ranks of diverse owners and franchisees.

The company is a founding sponsor of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers (NABHOOD), She Has a Deal (SHaD) and the Latino Hotel Association.

Through its engagement with these organizations as well as the National Black MBA Association, Marriott has conducted outreach and educational seminars on the path to hotel ownership, according to the company.

In addition, Marriott regularly hosts a Diverse Owner Summit at its headquarters to identify and recruit investors with interest in hotel ownership.

“A hotel is an economic engine for a community,” said Marriott International President, Stephanie Linnartz.

“We believe our guests, our associates, our hotels and the communities we serve will benefit from the full participation of underrepresented groups in this extraordinary industry.

“Marriott’s Bridging The Gap program directly addresses some of the most critical barriers to entry, with a comprehensive approach designed to enable historically underrepresented groups to enter our ownership ranks or to expand their current holdings,” she said.

In developing the program, Marriott tapped into the company’s development and franchising teams as well as current and potential hotel owners and franchisees.

In addition to providing access to valuable capital, Marriott plans to utilise its extensive relationships with seasoned hotel developers, operators and lenders to assist and support eligible owners’ hotel projects.

“As an investor in hotel projects and long-time advocate for creating more diversity, equity and inclusion within the hotel ownership community, I appreciated the advice Marriott sought from me and other industry experts in creating Marriott’s Bridging The Gap, which I hope others will emulate,” said She Has A Deal Founder, Tracy Prigmore.

“Providing access to capital is a big step in knocking down the highest barrier to entry underrepresented groups face when attempting to build or acquire a hotel.”

Marriott’s Bridging The Gap exemplifies the company’s aspirations under its LoveTravels platform established in 2014.

LoveTravels incorporates and expresses the company’s efforts to address barriers experienced by diverse communities, as well as make global communities better places to live, work, and visit.

James Wilkinson

Editor-In-Chief, Hotel Management