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.
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
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
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.
Location: Mammoth Cave KY
Within a two-hour drive of well-known towns like Louisville, Lexington, and Nashville, Kentucky's Mammoth Cave is a gigantic network of tunnels and chambers that collectively make up the world's longest cave system. Along with its deep river valleys, rolling hills, and nearly every sort of cave formation, it is home to over 130 species of fauna. It is also the most diverse cavern system on the entire planet.
Address: One Mammoth Cave Pkwy. Mammoth Cave KY 42259
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If you go:
Mammoth Cave National Park doesn't charge admission, but tours can cost anything from $4 to $66. There are several different tours offered, each with a distinct set of sights, length, and level of effort. They are all quite unforgettable experiences that range in length from 2 to 6 hours. Guided walks past magnificent landmarks including Frozen Niagara, Grand Avenue, Fat Man's Misery, and The Rotunda are popular tour option. Hiking paths weave through enchanted woodlands, through deserted cemeteries, ancient monuments, and breathtaking scenery. Even during the warmest months of summer, the deeper parts of the cave maintain a constant temperature of 54 degrees. Cave temperatures can fluctuate greatly, particularly around the entrances and throughout the winter. For this reason, no matter what time of year you come, a light jacket is advised. After a long day of adventure, you may drift off to sleep at one of the campsites that are perched on the banks of the Green River. There are many ways to enjoy the history and beauty of this special place, and large, easily accessible visitor centers offer a lot of information.
- Mammoth Cave is recognized as one of the seven natural wonders, along with Crater Lake, Niagara Falls, Hawaii Volcano Natural Park, Devil's Tower, Old Faithful, and Death Valley, on SevenWonders.org and other websites.
- The first Native civilizations of Kentucky explored the cave system more than 4,000 years ago. The place was mostly utilized as a hunting refuge during inclement weather. During exploration, pottery, prehistoric tools, and other artifacts from the past have all been discovered in various locations, along with skeleton and mummified remains. Explorers estimate the Native Americans only traveled around 20 kilometers inside the caverns based on the data gathered over the years.
- More than 12 uncommon species, including the rare Albino Shrimp, Kentucky Eyeless Cave Shrimp, Southern Cave Fish, and Indiana Eyeless Crayfish, may be found in the cave system. Additionally, there are several bat species, including the Indiana Bat and the Eastern Pipistrelle Bat. Limited populations of the endangered Kentucky Cave Shrimp, Indiana Bat, and Gray Bat remain in the caverns as well.
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