Black-Owned Resort to Open in Miami

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A black-owned luxury resort will open for business here next month, the product of a plan drafted by activists, city officials and lodging executives that ended a black tourist boycott.

The $84 million, 422-room Royal Palm Crowne Plaza is made up of two Art Deco hotels, the old Royal Palm and the Shorecrest, and blends seamlessly with the beach's other refurbished hotels. It will open next month and has been booked to host the NAACP's 2003 conference.

``The opening of our hotel allows Miami-Dade to say to the African-American community, locally and nationally, that a promise was made and a promise is being kept,'' said R. Donahue Peebles, president of Peebles Atlantic Development Corp. and majority owner of the Royal Palm Crowne Plaza.

Nationally, black workers hold between 30 percent and 35 percent of the industry's entry-level positions, said Andy Ingraham, head of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners and Developers. He said there are fewer than 60 black executives in the nation's 30,000 full-service hotel and just 36 of the country's 80,000 limited- and full-service hotels are black-owned, along with about 40 smaller inns.

Construction of the hotel was central in a 20-point plan, which ended a black tourist boycott of Miami in 1993 that had been triggered by city officials' decision to not meet with visiting South African leader Nelson Mandela in 1990.

Cuban-American leaders were angered by Mandela's support of Fidel Castro, and Jewish leaders were upset by his support of Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The boycott badly tarnished Miami's reputation and cost the county an estimated $20 million to $50 million.

The boycott also yielded other changes, including the creation of the Visitor Industry Council, whose purpose is to expand black participation in the county's tourism industry through mentorship programs and scholarships.

The city of Miami Beach loaned $10 million for construction of the hotel. Peebles said that was spent on unforeseen budget increases. He has 25 years to pay it back, in addition to $490,000 in annual rent, plus 20 percent of any gross over $17 million each year for the next decade.

The hotel will target groups and leisure travelers from the Northeast, according to its manager, Jesse Stewart.

Industry insiders say the hotel will easily draw a good portion of the black tourism market, worth $36 billion last year.

``It's a good flag, a great address, an upscale brand that has a loyal following certainly within the corporate market,'' said Scott Berman, a hospitality analyst. ``But recession or no recession, the first year of any hotel operation is the most difficult.''

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