Though hospitality was a family business, Arzu Molubhoy wanted to be a rebel after graduating from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. She initially started seeking jobs outside of Atlantic Hotels Group, the development company founded by her father, Perry Molubhoy, but eventually, the opportunities offered by the company brought her home. Since starting at Atlantic Hotels Group as an accountant, Molubhoy has forged her own path, building a strong, dynamic team and helping the company grow its portfolio to 25 hotels. Now, as CFO, Molubhoy is looking to wield her influence outside of Atlantic Hotels Group, serving on numerous industry boards and councils, including the IHG Owners Association’s Emerging Leaders Network, Marriott’s Franchise Advisory Council, and Cornell’s Young Alumni Council. She told LODGING that her greatest career satisfaction comes from helping others succeed, something she plans to continue to do as she grows.
How did you know you wanted to work in hospitality’s financial sector?
I’ve had a knack for numbers for as long as I can remember. I liked real estate and finance, but I didn’t like operations or sales as much; they just weren’t my forte. I knew I wanted to go into real estate accounting finance. When the accountant left our company and I took over, it felt like a door opened. Everything happens for a reason and that was my calling. I was able to take the position, make it my own, build my own department, and get to where I am today.
As you built your team, what were you trying to keep in mind?
I’m the type of person who gives people chances if I can see fire within them. I want to see a hunger, thirst, and desire to improve. When I hire people, that’s the mindset I look for. For me, people start in a basic position and move to be managers or directors for the company. We’ve created an environment wherein those who work for us are family. That’s how we treat everybody. We work really hard, but also have a lot of fun. We have faith that we will have each other’s backs.
Why did you prioritize joining boards and getting involved if industry organizations?
It was important for me to be able to provide a new perspective to industry organizations. Most of the people on boards are older—I was always conversing with people that have been in hospitality for 20, 30, or even 40 years. I wanted to offer a fresh set of eyes that allows these organizations to better cater to younger travelers and create an environment that caters to their wants and needs.
I also want to represent the younger people in our industry. I want young folks to know that the sky’s the limit if they have the passion and drive to pursue their dreams. I also want to show the people who have decades of experience that young people have something valuable to bring to the table.
What can the industry do to accommodate this next generation and make sure it’s an inclusive environment not just for women, but for everyone who’s coming up?
Frankly, the hotel industry is still a big boys’ club, but times are changing, and the industry is changing with it. I’m currently active in a group called Women in Investment (WIN), which meets annually at ALIS. We’re finding that more and more women join the group every year, which is incredible. These are the benchmarks and we’re seeing them change in real time.
I think the most important thing we can do is not underestimate how much this industry wants to change. People surprise me all the time, and that’s the best feeling. That’s what I want to see more of, and that’s what I want to do more of—bringing out the best of people who are in this industry.