By Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, President and CEO, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
I’ve written before about the severe underrepresentation of Black professionals across the executive level in the hospitality industry — including in senior sales, marketing, and revenue optimization positions. There are many different reasons for this, but new research by the HSMAI Foundation highlights a big one: We’re not investing sufficiently in the talent pipeline.
In a review of undergraduate hospitality programs at the 19 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) offering them, we found that enrollment and graduation rates have been trending downward for at least the last five years:
Our research also found that sales, marketing, and revenue management are not a part of the core curriculum at most HBCU hospitality programs — and, except for marketing classes, aren’t offered in any capacity at many of them:
Again, this isn’t the only reason we don’t see many Black executives at hotel companies, but it doesn’t help. As an industry, we must commit ourselves to developing the next generation of talent, especially among populations that historically have been overlooked or marginalized. An important step in the right direction is Marriott’s just-announced partnership with Howard University — one of the HBCUs included in our research — to establish the Marriott-Sorenson Center for Hospitality Leadership in memory of the late Marriott President and CEO Arne Sorenson, to be funded with a $20-million endowment from the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation.
The HSMAI Foundation is following up with the directors of HBCU hospitality programs for additional data and insights, and will share that information as we receive it. Because the sooner we understand that this is a problem all of us are responsible for solving, the sooner we’ll get to it — together.