Building on its longstanding efforts to increase diversity across the hospitality industry, Choice Hotels International Inc. held its inaugural HERtels by Choice Development Seminar on March 20, with nearly 40 franchise owners, general managers and hotel associates in attendance as part of a series of events to commemorate Woman’s History Month.
“While industrywide parity is improving, with more female investors, directors and leaders in hospitality than ever before, women entrepreneurs still face significant economic and societal barriers when it comes to hotel ownership and development,” said John Lancaster, VP, emerging markets, franchise development and owner relationships, Choice Hotels. “As an industry, we owe it to the next generation of hoteliers to change this statistic, which is why Choice is proud to be at the forefront of rebalancing the scales of opportunity through HERtels by Choice. This initiative and the invaluable resources it provides is a natural extension of our industry-leading emerging markets program and our enduring commitment to helping growth-minded entrepreneurs further their unique ownership journey.”
The event, the first-of-its-kind seminar hosted by a major hotel company, according to Choice, addressed the discrepancy in hotel ownership rates for women by empowering female owners with a day of training, education sessions and networking opportunities. In addition to encouraging women owners to build confidence and leverage best practices in the lending, construction and hotel operations processes, the seminar also aimed to advance the opportunity of hotel ownership to underrepresented entrepreneurs by connecting prospective hoteliers with industry veterans and Choice executives.
“It is truly remarkable to be here today, on the eve of Hunter, one of the largest lodging conferences,” said keynote speaker Dia Simms, CEO, Lobos 1707 Tequila & Mezcal. “I remember the time when we’d have strategic networking sessions at events—in the ladies’ room. I will never take for granted having a room full of powerful, incredible and intelligent women talking about equity moving forward to hotel ownership.”
For two decades, Choice’s emerging markets development program has been dedicated to making small business ownership a reality for underrepresented populations, including women entrepreneurs. Along with tailored training and enhanced financing incentives—including access to designated lending and entitlement experts to help entrepreneurs strengthen their application package—personalized mentorship and networking are key differentiators of HERtels by Choice.
“One of the most significant barriers to hotel ownership is a lack of industry connections, and as a program built for women, by women, HERtels serves as an important link in closing this gap,” said third-generation hotelier Jyoti Sarolia, president/CEO, Ellis Hospitality. “Choice Hotels was the first brand that I owned which taught me how to build and grow my portfolio. Choice teaches you operations, revenue management, competitive sales and marketing, HR tips, and more at Choice University. There’s so much support allowing you to own any brand you desire and grow as big as you want with brands that are above or alongside your segment.”
Since launching the HERtels program in 2021, Choice Hotels has awarded more than 50 contracts specifically to women entrepreneurs. In addition to HERtels by Choice, Choice Hotels continues to foster female hotel ownership through sponsorships and support at women-focused conferences on hotel ownership, including:
- She Has a Deal, an education and investment platform for aspiring women hotel investors and developers
- Fortuna’s Table, an online community for diverse potential hotel owners to learn, inspire, network, plan and collaborate on the path to hotel investment and ownership
- Black Girls In Real Estate Conference
“As a premier franchisor, savvy hoteliers recognize working with Choice Hotels means the opportunity to go into business for themselves—not by themselves—and the HERtels by Choice program is no exception,” said Anna Scozzafava, VP/general manager, extended-stay brands, Choice Hotels. “Whether their dream of hotel ownership involves a new-construction project or a turnkey conversion opportunity, Choice Hotels has the proven brands, technology and business support owners need to hit the ground running and achieve their hospitality goals.”