AAHOA recognizes that women are the backbone of the hospitality industry. Women welcome guests at the front desk, provide excellent housekeeping services, own and operate hotel properties, contribute innovative ideas in the boardroom, and participate as keynote speakers at industry conferences. Women hoteliers are stepping up, paving their own way, and leaving their mark in the industry.
Some women hoteliers are going above and beyond by transforming hospitality and using their skills and experience to change communities. That’s precisely what AAHOA Lifetime Member Rita Desai plans to do should she be elected as councilwoman to represent Arcadia’s Town Council District 5 in Louisiana.
Desai announced her candidacy to Arcadia’s Town Council this past summer. But, to understand why Desai, a successful hotel owner and entrepreneur, is running for a council seat, you must first get to know her journey.
HOTEL OWNER IN THE MAKING
Desai has lived in Arcadia for more than 30 years and is a friendly, familiar face wherever she goes in her small, tight-knit community. Desai sits on the Louisiana National Bank executive board, promotes the Indian culture, and tackles issues facing residents through her involvement with Gujarati Samaj of North West Louisiana.
She also participates in the local Chamber of Commerce and contributes to the state’s economy through her hotel and property management businesses. As a small-business owner, her instinct is to work hard, connect with locals and visitors, and visualize the future. She credits her parents for her success.
Desai was born in India and moved to England when she was six months old. When she turned 13, her parents moved again, and this time to the U.S. Her parents eventually purchased a hotel business in their new country.
As a child, Desai got the inside scoop on the hard work, challenges, and planning it takes to run a hotel. But, she also saw the incredible career she could have if she stayed in hospitality. That’s why, soon after getting married, Rita and her husband, Andy, jumped at the opportunity to own Days Inn Arcadia in 1992 and eventually Best Western in 1997. As president of both hotel properties for more than two decades, Desai has learned a lot.
“I would say that my experience as president of two hotels has shown me how to work as a team with my staff, execute financial planning strategies, and connect with travelers and locals from different backgrounds,” Desai shared.
PAVING THE WAY
Desai is an inspiring example of a woman hotelier running for local office.
“To run for this position as a woman means a lot to me. I have two daughters, and one of my goals has always been to set an example for them,” Desai said. “I strive to show my daughters that anything is possible and that being a woman should never hold you back from your dreams. It’s more important now than ever, because I want to set an example for my new granddaughter.”
Desai is paving the way for women hoteliers to hold significant leadership positions, and AAHOA is honored to have a member like Desai represent the industry in her community. She has been an AAHOA Lifetime Member since 1998 and served as a local ambassador, connecting like-minded individuals with AAHOA and the industry at large.
For Desai, there’s a sense of pride in having been a part of the Arcadia community for more than three decades, while also getting the chance to use her hotel experience to improve city services and the quality of life for all residents.
AAHOA understands how important it is to foster, promote, and empower women hoteliers. That’s why the association recently launched the AAHOA Women Hoteliers Initiative, an initiative to educate, celebrate, and empower the women hoteliers of AAHOA and across the industry. This type of women-focused initiative creates a positive ripple effect for women like Desai to aspire to more, including elected office.