AAHOA Holds Inaugural HerOwnership Conference & Retreat

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ATLANTA, Georgia—AAHOA held its inaugural HerOwnership Conference & Retreat at the Radisson Hotel Cincinnati Riverfront from October 26-27, 2022. The HerOwnership Conference & Retreat wasn’t a typical women’s event; it focused on women who are interested in owning their first hotel or learning about owning hotels in general. The event was designed to educate women about how to own a property or business and promote women who are interested in exploring hotel ownership.

“Seeing all of these dynamic women in all areas of hospitality come together for a few days of education and relaxation was extremely powerful,” said AAHOA Female Director Eastern Division Lina Patel, CHO. “I’m proud to have worked alongside the entire AAHOA team in launching the HerOwnership program. This conference and retreat gave women hoteliers an opportunity of a lifetime.”

On the first day of the HerOwnership Conference & Retreat, there was a panel discussion that took a closer look at industry trends and uncovered why the time is now for women to get more involved in ownership opportunities in the hotel industry.

“Our industry is relationship-focused. Cultivating your relationships outside of your usual norm is important. Cultivate relationships with franchisors and cultivate your relationships with local lenders. When I went for my first commercial loan, I got rejected. I was feeling so good about it, but I realized I went to a bank I didn’t have a relationship with,” said Tejal N. Patel, one of the panelists, and AAHOA Female Director Western Division. “My family had a relationship with a local lender for many years. So, when I went through that door and let them know I was a part of the family, I saw the door open a little bit.”

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Following the panel discussion, attendees heard directly from brands. G6 Hospitality, Choice Hotels, Red Roof, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, and Marriott International encouraged attendees toward hotel development and investment and showed initiatives to increase ownership among historically underrepresented groups. AAHOA had the support of these brands, in addition to My Place and Sonesta at the HerOwnership Conference.

“This is an important message AAHOA is sending to the industry,” said AAHOA Chairman Neal Patel, CHO, CHIA. “These women are trailblazers and finally getting the support and education they need to take their businesses to the next level, and support their families.”

Before rejoining AAHOA this past summer, President and CEO Laura Lee Blake spent many years dealing with litigation lawsuits involving companies and millions of dollars. Thanks to her professional experience over the years, Blake shared advice on improving negotiation skills. Blake recommended that women should consider the art of negotiation as an opportunity to open new doors in their ownership experience. She discussed the concept of listening closely to understand the perspective of the other party and using strategic empathy to assist in influencing change. Blake also identified focused questions and phrases that can assist in obtaining favorable responses to ensure the negotiations do not come to a standstill.

“Taking time to get to know the other party and build rapport can help hoteliers navigate the negotiation process more effectively,” Blake added, “When you step into the other party’s shoes, trust and collaboration increase, giving you an advantage in the negotiation process.”

The first day included content, two wellness sessions, and a reception, and the second day also had a wellness session. The conference agenda included health and wellness as a component. Other themes throughout the second day included leadership communication skills, personal branding, technology, lending, and finances. Executive Coach and Communications Expert Diane Ripstein was the keynote speaker and shared four building blocks to create a strong executive presence.

Following the keynote presentation, Heather Carnes, AAHOA’s executive vice president, communications, and chief strategy officer, moderated a panel on personal branding and carving out a niche in the industry. The panel discussion included insight into building credibility in the industry, developing a personal brand in the midst of the global pandemic, and drawing inspiration from other brands.

“When I started this business two years ago, I had to sit there, in the middle of the pandemic, and think, who am I, what does my company represent, and what kind of brand do I want to be,” said Seema Jain, one of the panelists, founder and CEO of Seva Global. “The brand that resonated with me was Ritz Carlton because they anticipate the needs of their guests and always go above and beyond. That is who I am for my clients.”

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