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Hotel CEOs Say Protests Are Our ‘Call to Action’ to Do More to Promote Racial Justice

Cameron Sperance, Skift
Hotel CEOs Say Protests Are Our ‘Call to Action’ to Do More to Promote Racial Justice

The chief executives of some of the largest U.S. hotel companies expressed support Tuesday for peaceful protests in response to ongoing examples of racial injustice across America.

Crowds continued to protest in U.S. municipalities of all sizes this week in light of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while in police custody. Some of these peaceful protests have turned violent between protestors and members of law enforcement, leading to rioting and looting. Police fired tear gas on protestors outside the White House Monday, as Trump administration officials appeared in the Rose Garden and made their way to the nearby St. John’s church for President Donald Trump to take a photo holding a copy of the Bible.

Hotel executives, not speaking of the Trump incident specifically, during an NYU-sponsored hotel webinar Tuesday expressed support for the cause driving people to protests in streets across the country.

“With respect to the protests, it’s very concerning that we continue to see the existence of and persistence of racism in this country and prejudice in many places around the world,” Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian said during a question-and-answer session with media. “The frustration level and the outpouring of emotion is completely understandable given how long this persists and how it keeps repeating itself. So, we really need to step up and get more engaged.”

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Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta and BWH Hotel Group CEO David Kong joined Hoplamazian during the press conference. Both shared his sentiment with respect to the ongoing peaceful protests.

“As for the protests, this is really difficult to watch. Obviously, there is no place for racism in our country and in our culture,” Nassetta said. “We certainly support our African American team members and the whole African American community and those who are protesting in a safe way.”

“In terms of the protests, being an immigrant myself, I stand for equality,” Kong added. “My heart goes out to those feeling injustice.”

Nassetta acknowledged there had been some cosmetic damage to hotels in cities with “major unrest.” But the Hilton CEO added it was too early to discern any specific impact to properties across the portfolio. The hotels that were damaged tended to be in cities with either low operational levels or businesses still closed due to coronavirus-related mandates.

Protesters hadn’t damaged or looted any BWH properties, which includes the Best Western brand, Kong said. However, he said there were some hotels near a mall that had been looted in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“I’m certainly hopeful this settles itself down in the short-term and that we continue, as a country and certainly as an industry where we have incredible diversity, to focus on equality across all spectrums, including race,” Nassetta said.

All the leaders acknowledged the ongoing protests were an opportunity for the hotel industry, with its diverse workforce, to do more. The repeated examples of racial injustice show the status quo is no longer enough.

“As companies that have a very, very diverse employee base, we really must take more affirmative steps to address the situation,” Hoplamazian said. “That’s really what this is a call to action to do.”

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