The New Wave of Black Hoteliers

Photo Credit: Janet Hitchen

An increasing number of African Americans are learning how to get their money to work for them rather than simply being consumers. Black people are gradually venturing into domains such as stocks, bonds, and real estate in increasing numbers in an effort to accumulate generational wealth. Purchasing a hotel may seem like a distant dream for most, and for Black people, it may seem even further away as African Americans make up only 2% of hotel owners. Despite this, hotel ownership is one of the key areas of investment where African Americans are beginning to see the potential for large profit margins. Sheila Johnson, Davone Reaves, and Pharell Williams, are just some of the faces of this new wave of Black hotel ownership.

Sheila Johnson

As Forbes Magazine’s Top 50 America’s Richest Self-Made Women in 2017, Sheila Johnson turns everything she touches into gold. She is the Vice Chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the only African American women to have ownership in three professional sports teams, a founding partner in Black Entertainment Television (BET), and a board member of Parsons School of Design. Her success does not end there. Sheila boasts an intensive resume, including her luxury resort portfolio, as the founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts (SHR) which includes sites in the United States and the Caribbean earning over $200 million in revenue. In the Washington, DC Metro region, it is ranked No. 4 in Minority-Owned Businesses. It is also named No. 4 on the list of the Largest Women-Owned Businesses in Greater D.C.

SHR includes the equestrian-themed Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia, which has received a Forbes Five Star rating. The collection features Innisbrook in Tampa Bay, which hosts the annual PGA Valspar Championship; The Henderson, a luxury beach resort in Destin, Florida; the magnificent Hotel Bennett in Charleston, South Carolina; and Half Moon in Montego Bay, Jamaica, which recently debuted a new resort experience called Eclipse in March of 2020.

According to the website, while Salamander Hotels and Resorts can be compared to a diverse collection of fine art, each with its own unique mystique and allure, they've all been painted with the same delicate brush by a management team whose flair for creativity is matched only by its ability to delight, surprise, and resonate with guests on a deeply emotional and memorable level. Sheila states that “As a hotel company, our approach to hospitality is the same as it is to family: you will always belong, always feel welcome, respected, appreciated, and special”.

Photo Credit: Salamander Resort & Spa

Davonne Reeves

According to Black News, Davonne Reeves is one of the youngest African American women hotel owners in America. In less than a year, Reaves, 34, has amassed an astonishing three hotel properties, “For many years I never imagined that I could own a hotel and now I own three! It’s an indescribable feeling knowing that I am living my ancestors’ wildest dreams.”

Reaves and a former Georgia State University classmate bought the Home2 Suites by Hilton El Reno, Oklahoma, roughly 30 miles from Oklahoma City, with the help of other Nassau Investments group members. The $8.3 million acquisition is thought to have made the two lifelong friends the youngest African American women to ever co-own a property in a major hotel chain in the United States at the time. She purchased two more hotel properties with Nassau Investments in December 2021, including a Staybridge Suites in Fishers, Indiana, which is part of the renowned Intercontinental Hotel Group, one of the world's largest hotel chains. Nassau Investments and Reaves also bought a Hampton Inn & Suites in Scottsburg, Indiana, at the same time.

Reeves is a native Atlantan with 15 years of experience in the tourist sector. She started as a hotel receptionist and rose through the ranks to become a mid-level manager and, eventually, a hotel owner. Reaves has her own hospitality company, The Vonne Group, in addition to hotels. The Vonne Group teaches ambitious hospitality entrepreneurs the ins and outs of hotel ownership and investing. Reeve says she's still working toward the big picture objective she set for herself, assisting in the creation of new Black hotel owners and investors. She has already assisted 50 hotel investors, and two of her protégés are on their way to co-owning hotel assets in 2022. And Reaves says she's ready, willing, and able to assist in any way she can.

Photo Credit: Davonne Reeves

Pharrell Williams

Pharell Williams, the award-winning rapper, producer, singer, songwriter, and entrepreneur, latest business venture is The Goodtime Hotel. Located in Miami, Florida in collaboration with business partner, David Grutman, The Goodtime Hotel is “based on a simple state of mind: having a good time.” With a pink palette, hand-painted tropical hothouse murals, colorful animal patterns, and rattan furniture designed by famed designer Ken Fulk, The Goodtime Hotel was created to be an escapist hideaway. While the opening weekend festivities last April attracted a celebrity-studded crowd that included Kim Kardashian, David and Victoria Beckham, and Bad Bunny, the 266-room lifestyle hotel was purposefully designed to appeal to the next generation of travelers with high-design, micro-sized rooms, ample social space, and DJ-fueled pool parties. The hotel is in a major, historic portion of South Beach on Washington Avenue, which was once an iconic neighborhood lined with Miami staples but has since lost its luster and become rather deserted. Williams and Grutman couldn't pass up the chance to rebuild this section of town. The nightly rates are a fraction of the price of the opulent establishments that line the nearby Collins Avenue in South Beach.

Photo Credit: RIOCAM

Photo Credit: The Good Time Hotel

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Rajaa Sultanah

Rajaa Sultanah is a sneaker and fashion enthusiast from Philadelphia, Pa with a Major in Sports & Entertainment and Minor in TV & Film from Howard University. She enjoys working as a creative, entrepreneur, and influencer. She is always looking for her next creative opportunity. You can follow her on Instagram @Rajaa.Sultanah