top of page

IHG Hotels & Resorts Launches IHG LIFT to Drive Diverse Hotel Ownership: Q & A with Julienne Smith

IHG Hotels & Resorts (IHG), has introduced IHG LIFT, an owner growth program focused on creating more hotel development support for historically under-represented groups within the hospitality industry, and further diversifying IHG’s hotel owner community. The company’s new program will help unlock common barriers to hotel ownership among these groups and empower diverse owner-entrepreneurs for success.


With access to capital one of the toughest barriers to crack, especially for women, IHG has committed more than $30 million over the next five years to support the program––which includes help all along the hotel lifecycle––for owners who qualify in the U.S. and Canada.


In case you were wondering, the IHG LIFT program name signifies Leadership, Inclusivity, Facilitation and Transformation to represent the change needed and continued evolution across the industry. Absolutely love it!

IHG Julienne Smith

We chatted with Julienne Smith, Chief Development Officer, Americas, IHG Hotels & Resorts, to get the scoop on the program and how women can get involved.


How long has the IHG LIFT program has been in the works?


While we’ve supported the growth of diversity within our ownership community for quite some time, we’re proud to formally launch IHG LIFT and share this opportunity more broadly to help drive success among under-represented owner-entrepreneurs in the US and Canada. IHG has long championed efforts to diversify ownership both within IHG and across the industry. IHG LIFT is a continuation of the company’s ongoing and firm commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), which extends a focus along the hotel lifecycle. This includes increasing the number of diverse suppliers through our EPIC Supplier Diversity Program, and working with architectural, design and construction firms that have DEI commitments within their business.

Sounds like it is a great opportunity for women that are aspiring hotel owners, how do they get involved?


I encourage any woman who aspires to be a hotel owner to reach out to our team at IHG so we can have a conversation about what the possibilities are: development.ihg.com/hotel-development/ihg-lift. Additionally, I recommend getting involved with organizations such as Tracy Prigmore’s She Has a Deal or AHLA’s ForWard – organizations that provide great opportunities for women who want to explore hotel ownership, investment, and network with other women within the hotel industry.


Fantastic that IHG supports She Has a Deal and AHLA Forward, IHG (UK) also supports hertelier as part of the Journey to Tomorrow program. Why do you feel supporting programs for women is so important for the hotel industry?


We’re happy to support these organizations, and we need more influential companies and industry executives supporting programs like She Has a Deal and AHLA Forward to help women on the path to hotel ownership.

As an industry, we need to keep our focus on creating pathways for underrepresented owners to gain traction. Although women have not been represented in a meaningful way in hotel ownership and development to date, we are seeing growth and change as more companies, like IHG, have created opportunities for growth. One powerful way to help is for all of us who are established in this industry, irrespective of gender, is to be proactively sponsoring and advocating for women. The key is not just helping women secure roles, but actively supporting them in their growth and showing them the potential. And we need to continue committing to programs designed to support and invest in women and other under-represented groups, as well as address access to capital.

One powerful way to help is for all of us who are established in this industry, irrespective of gender, is to be proactively sponsoring and advocating for women. The key is not just helping women secure roles, but actively supporting them in their growth and showing them the potential.

Glad you mentioned that one of the big challenges for women is raising capital. Is there anything more you can share about how you will support women in getting better access to capital? How will the 30 million be deployed?


We recently hired Lori Tirado as Director of Capital Markets to help connect lenders and capital sources to IHG franchisees. Finalizing the capital stack is the most difficult part of development today and to the extent we can help bridge the gap, we intend to do that by making introductions or exercising our balance sheet.

For owners who qualify in the U.S. and Canada, the program includes offering financial incentives in the form of discounted fees and key money for strategic deals, complimentary commercial support for a period of time, and access to IHG’s expertise along the hotel lifecycle, as a start.

Why are you and IHG so passionate about diversifying hotel ownership?


Diversifying ownership is also not only better for IHG, it also strengthens our entire industry. We believe that anyone with the ability to own and develop hotels should be supported to realize the opportunity. Anyone interested in getting involved with IHG LIFT should visit development.ihg.com/hotel-development/ihg-lift.

Diversifying ownership is also not only better for IHG, it also strengthens our entire industry.

IHG has long championed owner diversity, including working closely with the Asian-American hotel franchise community for decades. In addition to the diverse owners in its current portfolio, IHG’s support for underrepresented groups has included sponsoring conferences, speaking engagements and lending expertise for organizations such as the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers (NABHOOD), and the Latino Hotel Association, among others.


To nurture the success of future leaders and increase ethnically and racially diverse talent in hospitality, IHG is also engaged in partnerships with two leading Historically Black Colleges and Universities – Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College.


At the core, IHG LIFT is aligned with IHG’s broader purpose to deliver True Hospitality for Good and its Journey to Tomorrow 2030 responsible business plan to drive change for people, communities and the planet, including cultivating an inclusive culture for our colleagues, owners and suppliers.


Thanks Julienne! We're so excited to follow the IHG LIFT program in action and look forward to watching more women become hotel owners.



Comments


bottom of page