By Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, President and CEO, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
As Black Lives Matter protests continue across the country and around the world, hotel companies haven’t been quiet about voicing their support. I’d like to think it goes without saying that HSMAI joins these industry leaders in rejecting racism and intolerance, but at a time like this, that’s not good enough: HSMAI rejects racism and intolerance, and demands that Black people everywhere be treated with justice, equity, and respect.
Where we go from here is up to each of us individually, but we all must choose to be part of the solution. Certainly, our industry has a role to play in condemning exclusionary practices and fostering diversity and inclusion. We can begin by confronting the industry’s shameful past of exclusion and segregation, which necessitated the creation of resources for Black travelers such as The Negro Motorist Green Book; respecting the significant progress we have made since then; and acknowledging that we still have much further to go.
This is a battle that must and will be fought across many fronts. At HSMAI, we are most immediately prioritizing representation, which is the obvious but crucial idea that having Black people represented in our organization, fully and equally, matters — as contributing members, volunteer leaders, conference speakers, partners, employees, and every other way. To our Black members and leaders who are already active in HSMAI, thank you. We hope you’ll be part of our internal dialogue moving forward. We can do better, and we will.
Longer term, there is the broader problem of all minority groups being underrepresented among professionals working in hospitality sales, marketing, and revenue optimization. This is something that our entire industry must address together, but I know the HSMAI Foundation — whose mission is build the hospitality talent and leadership pipeline — is positioned to contribute in a way that helps generate systemic, permanent change.
As I said, changing the way things are is as simple as choosing to be part of the solution. HSMAI so chooses.