A bigger tent

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Last week's annual meeting of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers was a watershed event in the history of the lodging industry, much like the formation of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association was in the late 1980s.

A record crowd of about 400 African-American owners and wannabes, as well as chain executives and vendors, crowded into the black-owned Atlanta Marriott Century Center to celebrate the group's successes and, more importantly, to share ideas on how to grow even faster. The conference, chaired by whirlwind NABHOOD President & CEO Andy Ingraham, was a mix of established black hotel owners—Mike Roberts, Hank Thomas, James Guillory and others—and scores of entrepreneurs and other hopefuls who see the lodging industry as fertile ground to grab a piece of the American dream.

Thatâ€â„¢s the beauty of the hotel business. Itâ€â„¢s often been said that you can start at the bottom of this industry and, through hard work and a lot of drive, become a GM or even a chain president. But thatâ€â„¢s only half the story. It may seem like a stretch, but itâ€â„¢s also possible to go from industry wage earner to owner of your own hotel, or at least a piece of one. Sure, it takes even harder work and more smarts—and probably some partners who believe in you—but it can be done. Ask the thousands of Asian Americans who have created their own American dreams.

The hotel industry is a big tent that includes all kinds of people—those born in the U.S., immigrants from all over the globe and increasingly, minorities of all kinds. Thanks to AAHHOA, NABHOOD and others, the tent is getting even bigger.

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