Most major hotel chains receive failing grades in NAACP survey Mfume calls for boycott, says industry's record with blacks is 'abysmal'

February 27, 1997|By James Bock | James Bock,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- NAACP President Kweisi Mfume gave most major hotel chains failing grades yesterday on doing business with black Americans, and he urged consumers to boycott those with bad report cards.

Flanked by representatives of black professional and fraternal groups, Mfume released highlights of an NAACP survey of hotel chains' hiring, promotion and procurement, but no detailed results. He said a "consumer guide" to the lodging industry was forthcoming.

The survey represents the NAACP's first major foray under Mfume into what he calls the "logical extension of the civil rights movement -- economic empowerment." He said the NAACP would later focus on other industries.

African-Americans spend more than $4 billion a year on travel and lodging, but the hotel industry "has an abysmal record of including us," Mfume said. The U.S. lodging industry had revenues of $72 billion in 1995, and its work force was 15.3 percent black, according to the American Hotel & Motel Association.

Mfume said hotel chains responding to the survey reported that 2 percent of their corporate officers and 4.8 percent of their professional staffs, such as lawyers and accountants, were black.

"There is no reciprocal relationship. What we have existing essentially is a one-way street," Mfume told a news conference. "We can do more than just clean the hotels. We can operate them professionally if given the opportunity and training to do so."

The NAACP leader urged black Americans to use their "collective economic power" to press hotel chains to improve their records in employment; equity and franchise ownership; purchasing from outside vendors; advertising and marketing; and philanthropy.

Mfume said the 55 black organizations sponsoring the survey spend $200 million a year on conferences. "If you want our dollars, you must establish goals and work actively to achieve them. We are grading your progress and will disseminate your grades in public," he said.

Mfume said the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had pulled out of plans to hold a regional conference next month at a Doubletree hotel in Little Rock, Ark., because Doubletree gave "absolutely no response at all" to the survey.

But he said that some groups had contractual obligations that could not be broken. For example, the NAACP convention in Pittsburgh in July will use Doubletree and Westin, another chain that got an F for not responding; as well as Hilton and Marriott, which received C's, the best grades of the 16 chains.

Ann Rhoades, a Doubletree executive vice president, said the chain told the NAACP that it could not respond promptly to the survey because of a merger. But she said 23 percent of the chain's 15,500 employees and 9.1 percent of its officials and managers are African-American. She said 38 percent of the Little Rock hotel's management was black.

"We will talk with the NAACP and work with them," she said. "I don't want a C; I want an A."

Mfume flunked eight of 16 chains for not participating. He said that some chains said they could not answer the NAACP's questions and that others considered the information proprietary.

Other chains receiving F's were: Best Western, Choice (including Quality Inn, Comfort Inn and EconoLodge), Holiday Inn, Omni, Radisson and Renaissance.

"You have the right not to share information with us, but we also reserve the right not to share our dollars with you," Mfume said.

Holiday Inn spokesman Craig Smith said the chain supports the NAACP and has contributed to its Atlanta branch, where Holiday Inn has its headquarters. But he said the chain does not release the kind of information the NAACP was seeking.

Susan Salazar, a Westin vice president, said the chain could not meet the NAACP's deadline but was "caught off guard" by the civil rights group going public. She said Westin would submit the data when it could.

ITT Sheraton and Promus (including Embassy Suites and Hampton Inn) withheld data and got failing grades of D-minus.

Other chains receiving passing grades included: Hyatt, Adams Mark and Ritz-Carlton (all with C-minus), and Hospitality Franchise Systems Inc. (including Days Inn and Howard Johnson) with D's.

Pub Date: 2/27/97

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