NAACP gives 3 hotel chains poor marks, plans boycott Omni, Adam's Mark, Best Western dispute results on diversity

Lodging

June 30, 1998|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

The NAACP called yesterday for a boycott of three hotel chains that failed on the group's report card monitoring the lodging industry. The companies are crying foul over the grading process.

Best Western International Inc., Adam's Mark Hotels and Omni Hotels Corp. brought up the bottom of the list of 14 chains with grades of D+, D and D-, respectively. The companies were evaluated on their performance concerning diversity and minority business development.

The lodging industry review, begun in 1996, judges companies according to the participation of blacks in management, franchising and supply of materials.

"Hotels that receive a D will not receive NAACP business dollars," Kweisi Mfume, president and chief executive of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said in a statement. "And we will take every opportunity to inform consumers of our decision and urge them to make similar choices."

The hotel rankings were released at a news conference in Washington.

The survey requested hotels provide information such as their marketing and advertising budgets, and whether they patronize black-owned vendors.

Best Western and Omni said that because they were unable to fully participate in the survey, they received failing grades. The latter is a private company, and the former is an association of independently owned hotels.

"It's a little condescending to suggest that all of a sudden these companies can't put their hands on the information because of how they are structured," Mfume said after the news conference. "Where there's a will, there's a way. And obviously, they don't have the will."

Last year, Holiday Inn said it couldn't provide information requested but then released the information "once they realized how serious we were," Mfume said.

If a company refuses to submit information, "it served to their disadvantage," said Jeanne Hitchcock, a NAACP spokeswoman. But the three failing companies received their low marks "because the information they provided said they had poor records in dealing with the African-American community," she said.

The lodging industry takes in about $80 billion in revenue a year, and it is estimated that blacks contribute about $4.6 billion of that amount, Hitchcock said.

"We have never had a disagreement with the NAACP or its objectives and goals. But our problem is, we feel the survey is comparing apples and oranges," said Skip Boyer, a spokesman for Best Western, which is based in Phoenix, Ariz., and has 3,400 hotels in 77 countries. It has 13 hotels in Maryland.

Because Best Western is an association of independently owned hotels, its headquarters does not have access to information about individual properties and is not involved in their operations, Boyer said.

Michelle Bennett, a spokeswoman for Irving, Texas-based Omni, said the 42-hotel chain could not fully participate in the survey because it is privately held and it deemed much of the requested information proprietary. Omni's only hotel in Maryland is in downtown Baltimore.

Both companies received failing grades on the NAACP report card last year, but they were minimally affected by a boycott, Boyer and Bennett said.

"A handful of hotels were affected, but companywide we really didn't experience anything noticeable," Bennett said.

Mfume said the NAACP has secured the support of 72 organizations -- including black sororities, fraternities, publications and trade groups -- and it will be impossible for a boycott to not affect any of the hotel chains.

According to the NAACP report card, Cendant Corp. and Promus Hotel Corp. ranked at the top of the list, with grades of B and B-, respectively.

Cendant is the parent company of Days Inn, Howard Johnson and TravelLodge. Promus is the parent company of Doubletree Guest Suites & Resorts, Embassy Suites and Hampton Inn & Suites.

Last year, Cendant received a C and Promus a D.

Marriott International Inc., Westin and Choice received grades of C+; Holiday Inn, Wyndham, Radisson and Hilton received grades of C; and Hyatt and ITT Sheraton received grades of C-.

Pub Date: 6/30/98

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