The under-appreciation of the lodging industry by politicians, the media and the general public continues to amaze me. The opening of a new factory, even a small one, is the cause of massive celebration in most communities. And while job creation on any level is always a good thing, I'm perplexed why many people consider the creation of tourism jobs somehow less worthwhile.
Last weekend, my wife Carolyn and I attended the grand opening of the JW Marriott in Indianapolis, a gleaming, 1,005-room property next to the city's expanded and improved convention center. The property is spectacular in every way and is a tribute to the long-standing development and management excellence for which White Lodging has been known for more than 25 years. The hotel is a capstone in a five-property complex of Marriott-branded hotels White developed in downtown Indy. Price tag for the Marriott Place development was $450 million. It, along with the convention center upgrade, a new airport and a new football stadium, may catapult Indianapolis into the big time in the convention and tourism markets.
While the local Indianapolis media certainly celebrates this accomplishment, I'm not sure its importance will resonate beyond the city or state borders. In an era when job creation is at a premium, the JW Marriott and its four sisters is a jobs machine. The JW used 2,000 construction workers in total, with 150 onsite daily throughout the project. And, perhaps more importantly, the property generated 700 full-time jobs for the city. And while it's easy for some to decry hotel jobs as dead-end employment, nothing could be further than the truth. Anyone who has worked in the lodging business knows a smart and hard-working housekeeper, food server or front desk clerk can become a department head, assistant manager and GM as quickly as their ambitions take them.
The next time you're chatting with your local politicians or newspaper reporters, tell them about the economic power of the JW Marriott in Indy and then tell them about the job and wealth creation you and your firm bring to your community and state. Tourism, and the hotel business in particular, need to be more fully recognized as the robust economic engine it is.