Amid the proliferation of new hotels taking advantage of the area’s burgeoning tourism and visitor industry conspicuously absent are Black entrepreneurs.
Perrin Lawson, deputy director of the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau said currently there are some 4,126 hotel rooms available in Charleston. And more are under construction. That translates into innumerable jobs and economic opportunities, he said.
Dr. Brumby McLeod, an instructor in the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the College of Charleston said the 165 hotels and more than 17,000 rooms in the Tri-county region represent a huge economic engine that only minimally is engaged by African American entrepreneurs. Indians dominate hotel ownership in the United States owning about half the 55,000 hotels in the country.
Although many hotels operate as franchises with hidden owners, the number of Black owners in the hotel industry still is not reflective of their numbers in the total population, McLeod said. Transportation services is where most Black business owners land in the hotel industry, but other opportunities also exist. Hotels incorporate a variety of services that are contracted privately.
Though ownership opportunities are elusive, job opportunities are more available, industry experts say. Lawson said job opportunities depend on the size and service class of the hotel. Luxury hotels, especially those with meeting and banquet accommodations, incorporates all types of employees from valets and clerks to engineers and managers. Hotel operation is labor intensive, he said.
Blacks also are not proportionately represented in hotel management. But that may be because many front line employees can earn more than entry level managers, McLeod said.
McLeod said while hotel ownership may be out of the reach of many Black entrepreneurs, an option that is becoming more commonplace may not be as far reaching. Short term accommodations rental is one economic option that is becoming more prevalent in urban markets like Charleston, he said. Home owners who want to rent out either their houses or bedrooms for usually less than 30 days at a time see the option as a way to supplement ownership, he said.