In the 28 years since his family purchased a small hotel after emigrating to the United States from England, Bhavesh Patel has been involved in nearly every aspect of the hotel business. The longtime president and principal of ADM Hotels, who this year became chairman of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), stressed to LODGING the importance of education, both of its members on best management practices and legislators on matters of concern to its members.
When and why did you first get involved with AAHOA?
As our company grew and I became more involved in the industry, I began to see the negative effects of government policies and regulations on our industry. It was the implementation of New Jersey’s 2007 occupancy tax that initially led me to AAHOA. I recognized that by raising our concerns as a large group we could have more impact on lawmakers and officials to steer the conversation in a way that leads to policies that are fairer to hotels.
How has AAHOA changed since you joined the organization?
First, AAHOA has grown not only in membership—we now have 16,655 members—but it has also matured as an organization influence added its influence. We’ve developed and implemented short-term and long-term strategic goals, and have hired top-notch sta to advance our mission. We have also welcomed to the board an influx of young members. Having a board with members of diverse ages and genders brings a balance that is reflected in our growth. All of that adds up to an organization that has grown to be bigger than the sum of its individual parts. The focus has now really changed to be more on advocacy and education, but still taking care of our members’ needs.
Now that you’re chair, what are some of your top initiatives?
Education, which is the foundation of growing our industry and AAHOA, is my top priority. The more we know about how to efficiently run our businesses, find and retain customers, hire and promote the best staff and, perhaps most importantly, respond and comply with government rules, the bigger we’ll grow and the more success we’ll enjoy. The fruits of our labor will be to provide a successful business to the next generation and to provide stable jobs and a “work family” for our employees. Last year, AAHOA offered more than 40 industry-specific webinars. We want to see that doubled. We also want to triple the number of in-person seminars we offer. We want to see our new conference series, Hotel ROI, succeed and come back bigger and better next year. We want to offer more resources and options for AAHOA’s younger members. They’re our future, and we want them to stay in the industry and nd success.
What role do organizations like AAHOA play in the lodging industry?
We’re the voice of the owners. Most people in the country see just the individual brands, which is a feature of franchising and part of why it’s worked so well. But for each property and the brand as a whole to be successful, the relationship needs to be a partnership. That’s where AAHOA comes in. We have the influence and size to work directly with brand executives when issues come up. We voice our concerns on an active basis, before they become really big. We need solutions that are to the benet of everyone.
Does anything in the lodging industry keep you up at night?
I do worry about what new tax or regulations affecting our industry politicians will come up with next. It’s hard for those who don’t have to meet a payroll to understand that our employees’ families are relying on us to be able to put food on the table. We’ve seen hotel occupancy taxes increased to pay for roads, the joint employer definition, which affects every franchisee, change on a whim, and extreme wage laws. All of these take away from the business’s success.
What do you like most about working in hospitality?
The people and the challenge. The people include my own family, who can be part of my business, but I have also met so many close friends and amazing people both inside and outside AAHOA. The challenge lies in overcoming obstacles, which I like to face head-on, and accomplishing something that you didn’t think you ever could when you first started.