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Marriott International has launched a $50 million programme aimed at increasing development and ownership of hotels among historically underrepresented groups in North America.

In June Marriott International announced the launch of the “Marriott’s Bridging The Gap” scheme – a multi-year, $50 million development programme that aims to address the barriers to entry that historically underrepresented groups – including Black, Hispanic/Latino, Native American/First Nation and women – face in owning and developing hotels in the United States and Canada.

Recognising that access to capital constitutes a critical barrier to market entry, as part of the initiative the company will offer financial and other incentives to qualified historically underrepresented owners and franchisees that will have a controlling equity interest in select branded projects.

The incentives will apply to new franchise applications submitted from June 1, 2022. Over three years, qualifying development projects built or converted under as part of the project are expected to reach $1 billion in total asset value for historically underrepresented ownership groups.

“At the heart of what we do every day is welcome all,” said Anthony Capuano, CEO, Marriott International during a presentation. “Whether that’s people who stay with us, work in our hotels, meet our supply needs or develop hotels that fly one of our brand flags – all are welcome. With the establishment of the Bridging The Gap scheme, we are creating an on-ramp to help propel historically underrepresented groups in the journey to hotel ownership more frequently and more successfully. We are excited to launch the scheme and to continue building a more diverse owner and franchisee community.”

Marriott extensive relationships

In developing the program, Marriott tapped into the company’s development and franchising teams as well as current and potential hotel owners and franchisees. In addition to providing access to valuable capital, the company plans to utilise its extensive relationships with seasoned hotel developers, operators and lenders to assist and support eligible owners’ hotel projects.

“As an investor in hotel projects and long-time advocate for creating more diversity, equity and inclusion within the hotel ownership community, I appreciated the advice Marriott sought from me and other industry experts in creating its Bridging The Gap programme, which I hope others will emulate,” said Tracy Prigmore, Founder, She Has A Deal. “Providing access to capital is a big step in knocking down the highest barrier to entry underrepresented groups face when attempting to build or acquire a hotel.”

The announcement of Marriott’s Bridging The Gap programme is a significant step in the company’s longstanding effort to increase the ranks of diverse owners and franchisees. It is a founding sponsor of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers, She Has a Deal (SHaD) and the Latino Hotel Association. Through its engagement with these organisations as well as the National Black MBA Association, Marriott has conducted outreach and educational seminars on the path to hotel ownership.