A new Marriott fund will benefit historically underrepresented communities who want to open a hotel, offering financial support and educational opportunities. The result could be a more diverse pool of venues to choose from at a time when meeting professionals are struggling to find open space at fully staffed hotels.

The $50 million program, called “Marriott’s Bridging The Gap,” was revealed at NYU International Hospitality Investment Conference on June 6. It aims to lower the barrier to entry for groups that have been historically disadvantaged in the fields of investment and hospitality in the United States and Canada. Marriott will focus on aiding prospective hotel owners who are Black, Native American, First Nations, Hispanic, Latino or women.  

Read More: Marriott International to Open First Luxury Safari Lodge 

Challenges for Minority Investors

The biggest obstacle for minority business owners to tackle is often the initial monetary investment. According to a 2021 study by the Federal Reserve, the average Black, Hispanic and Latino households own up to 85% less net wealth than their white counterparts. According to Franchise Direct, a new hotel owner can expect to spend upwards of $118 million to open a new property with Marriott–an intimidating price tag for anyone. Even with a sufficient starting balance, a hotel may struggle to stay open without proper education and industry connections.

“Bridging the Gap” is designed to zero in on these systemic barriers and break them down with contributions ranging from $500,000 to $1 million. The fund will reduce application and royalty fees, which can be as high as $120,000, provide investment to secure franchise agreements and offer training at a discounted rate. Hotel owners in the program will also gain access to Marriott’s experts, connections and their Diverse Owner Summit held twice a year at their headquarters.

Elynsey Price, media relations manager for Marriott International, says that Marriott seeks to “reduce the barriers to hotel ownership” for those who have been historically excluded from hotel ownership.

Read More: Diverse Meeting Teams Are Smarter

Continued Support for Minorities by Marriott

Marriott International has a history of teaming up with minority-focused organizations to bring more people into the hotel business. The National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators, and Developers (NABHOOD) received a founding sponsorship from Marriott to support its goals. NABHOOD aims to bring more Black people into every level of the hotel business with the ultimate goal of creating generational wealth in a community that has been systematically limited financially.

“Bridging the Gap” echoes their method of support through education, investment and networking. Marriott’s involvement in similar organizations like She Has a Deal, the Latino Hotel Association, and the National Black MBA Association contribute to the company’s overall push for diversity that was bolstered by their “#LoveTravels” campaign. In 2018, the company gave $500,000 to groups and individuals that promoted diversity in travelers and hotel operators.

Price said that Marriott’s engagement with these organizations will continue, along with its outreach and educational seminars that lead people down the path to hotel ownership. “Bridging the Gap” expands on these efforts as a “formal, holistic program” with direct financial benefits.

The fund pledged to “Bridging the Gap” is an encouraging sign of a healing industry. Corporate travel has already started climbing back up from its massive drop in 2020. According to Zippia, the number of business travelers dropped from 464 million to 185 million from 2019-2020. An upward trend started in 2021 with 229 million travelers, a number that will only increase. Hotels and meeting venues in the United States and Canada will have to accommodate for this resurgence. What better way to meet this demand than to widen the pool of hotel owners and staff? The success of this program bodes very well for meeting planners–even better for the attendees that get to visit a new series of internationally inspired venues.