Room to Improve
Global Traveler|September 2021
Hotels take steps to prioritize diversity in the industry.

Hotel diversity isn’t where it could be, but it’s a work in prog-ress. Fueled with new energy that emerged from the racial reckoning of 2020, there’s more of a sense of urgency … and with good reason. There’s plenty to do when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion in the hotel industry.

Black people account for one in five American hotel jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. But they hold only one in 60 positions at a vice president or higher level, according to a report last year, “Black Representation in Hospitality Industry Leadership 2020,” from the nonprofit organization the Castell Project. They hold 1.5 percent of overall hospitality industry executive positions compared to 5 percent of executive positions across all industries.

According to research from MogulRecruiter, women and minorities comprise 60 percent and 40 percent, respectively, of the U.S. hotel frontline. However, only 20 percent of U.S. hotel general managers are women and 10 percent minorities. Blacks represent 15 percent of the frontline and only 1 percent of hotel general managers. “It took us a few years to analyze the data, but we have developed algorithms to rank diverse pools of talent and predict their worth and annual compensation. Today, our talent database has over 500,000 elite hospitality leaders in supervisor roles and above, featuring over 50 percent women and 33 percent who identify as minorities. However, our work is just getting started,” said Alex Mirza, founder and CEO, Mogul, a venture-backed technology company specializing in the hotel industry whose mission is to perfect meritocracy and accelerate diversity.

Mirza is passionate about diversity. In 2007, when he was senior vice president of corporate development at Hilton, he presented to the board of directors at a Waldorf Astoria resort in Phoenix. “After a very thorough question and answer period that followed my presentation, I undid my tie and walked to the valet to retrieve my rental car. The valet crew was out retrieving vehicles, so I waited. In a span of a few minutes, not one but three white men handed me the car keys to their vintage sports cars, mistaking me for the valet,” said Mirza.

He passed the keys over to the actual valet who quipped, “This is one of the few places where they trust brown people.” It turns out all three were CEOs of real estate and finance companies and were frequent guests at the resort. “While the implicit bias of this experience was demoralizing, it pales in comparison to the explicit barriers that women and ethnic minorities face in reaching the senior ranks of the hospitality industry,” said Mirza, a former CEO of Cachet Hotels with more than 20 years of experience as a senior executive in hospitality and gaming.

The NAACP publishes a report of its grades of hotel operators and their franchisees on minority representation of skilled versus unskilled labor, property management and corporation ranks. In 2019 the NAACP found little progress had been made since the organization’s 2005 evaluation and gave Hilton, Hyatt and Wyndham each a C and Marriott a B. For top management representation, the range of grades was from C (the best score) to many Fs, said Mirza.

No doubt there’s much work to be done on the diversity front, but that’s not to say there’s nothing going on. In fact, “Unlike before 2020, diversity is among the top management priorities,” said Mirza.

It is indeed. Here we highlight how some hotels are taking on the challenge of creating a more diverse workforce and partnering with diverse communities.


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