IHG further commits to support for minority ownership opportunitiesBy Jeffrey Weinstein | August 23, 2023Share A five-year, $30 million program is expected to hope under-represented groups get deals across the finish line with everything from key money to connecting lenders to capital sources. IHG has launched a program and committed $30 million over the next five years to provide more hotel development support and ease the path to ownership for historically under-represented groups within the hospitality industry called IHG LIFT (Leadership, Inclusivity, Facilitation and Transformation).The program includes support, access to capital and help along the hotel lifecycle for owners who qualify in the U.S. and Canada. IHG said it represents a continuation of ongoing and firm commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives and includes increasing the number of diverse suppliers through its EPIC Supplier Diversity Program, and working with architectural, design and construction firms that have DE&I commitments within their business.HOTEL Investment Today talked to IHG’s Chief Development Officer, Americas, Julienne Smith to learn more about the program.HOTEL Investment Today (HIT): What is the timeline for putting the money to work?Julienne Smith: IHG is committing more than $30 million in this program over the next five years, beginning now. This is in addition to what we have already done to support under-represented owners over the years before our official program launched today.HIT: How many deals will this investment support?Smith: While we can’t precisely project the number of deals, diversifying ownership is the ultimate goal because it strengthens our entire industry. We believe that anyone with the ability to own and develop hotels should be supported to realize that opportunity. Wider opportunities for owner-entrepreneurs lead to exponential growth opportunities in markets and segments that haven’t been tapped. So, everyone benefits. It’s in our interest to fill this gap and help our owners thrive.HIT: Are there any deals in the works soon to be announced?Smith: We’re always in active discussions but no specifics to share today.HIT: Can you offer more specifics on the type of support IHG will offer potential developers?Smith: 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, access to IHG’s expertise along the hotel lifecycle, as a start.HIT: Can you further explain how IHG will help developers get access to capital?Smith: 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.