Hotel investment firm with marketing plan to increase diversification: Travel Weekly

Ernie Weissman

“Interesting question,” said Lawrence Pinckney, president of Genbiz Travel, as we stood outside a New York restaurant earlier this week. “The answer is ‘yes.’ And ‘maybe.’

The question was, “As a Black travel consultant, do you refer clients to Black-owned travel suppliers?”

Lawrence Pinckney

Lawrence Pinckney

He elaborated: “It’s important to promote diversity. And I believe it’s very important to promote black-owned businesses. So if it’s high quality and resonates with my customers, I’ll promote it.

“But, for example, someone was telling me about a hotel in Cape Town that was black-owned at the time, and he thought it was a wonderful five-star hotel. I looked at it, and I didn’t like it. So it was black-owned. And the fact that it’s five-star doesn’t override what I think will be best for my customers.”

We’re nearing the end of National Black Business Month, and I raised the question to Pinckney because I recently spoke with a black business owner who buys hotels because, in part, he believes black travelers who want to stay in black. -Owned assets represent opportunity to be exploited.

That business owner is William Huston, co-founder and chief investment officer of Bay Street Capital Holdings, based in Palo Alto, California. After overlaying the two data points – black consumers spend $109 billion on domestic travel but only 532 out of 91,000 hotels. Black-owned in America — he saw an opportunity to segment the market.

Applying his belief that many black travelers would prefer to stay at a black-owned property if that was the option, he decided that, rather than affiliate with a well-known hospitality company, he would start his own brand, Restven.

“A lot of black owners go for tough brands. But if the name is Hyatt, it’s not immediately obvious who owns the hotel, right?” he asked.

William Huston

William Huston

After reading that black travelers spend $20 billion abroad in addition to domestic spending, he sent two of his employees who are realtors (with degrees in hospitality management) to look for properties both in the U.S. and abroad, and they’ve found four so far — one each in Venice, California; Lake Tahoe, California; Zihuatanejo, Mexico; and Sangre, Portugal – that Bay Street has bought or is in the process of buying.

In an online version of last week’s cover story on luxury travel, Travel Hub 365’s Stephen Scott pointed to the sparsity of black imagery in supplier promotional materials as a barrier to selling to black travelers.

Huston looks at the underlying assumption behind Scott’s observation—that travelers want to identify themselves in marketing materials—and applies it broadly. It is not his intention to fill his hotels with only black travelers; His digital-first marketing strategy uses social media and influencers to target different market segments and serve messages tailored to different demographics.

“Using cookies, we already know a lot about the person searching, for example, ‘places to stay in Portugal’. If a black person types in that, we’ll show them an image of a black person at our Portugal property. If they’re a golfer, we We’ll emphasize that it’s next to a golf course. If they’re surfers, we’ll show that it’s next to the beach. Some hotel investors go for value-added by repainting and refinancing the property and taking advantage of the price appreciation. We add value. is to know how to segment the audience correctly.”

Another component of the strategy is acquiring trophy properties in prime locations. He doesn’t bargain-hunt. “The Venice property is a five-minute walk to the beach; it’s already been used by HBO for a location shoot. The one in Mexico is amazing; we bought it while it was still under construction, but we knew right away we had to have it. One in Lake Tahoe Very well located, and can have a membership component and co-working space. Close to one of Portugal’s golf and beaches.”

Which brings us back to Pinckney and his desire to support black-owned businesses, but only if they align with their customers. Houston is clearly as focused on product distribution as he is on market segmentation.

Do travel advisors have a place in Houston’s plans?

“Not yet. But we are open to it,” he said.

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