A Family Affair


A father-son AAHOA Member duo on the ins and outs of independent hotel ownership

History is packed with individuals who have braved new frontiers. It’s no secret those who embark upon uncharted territory are often filled with mixed emotions. On one end, there’s the thrill and sense of fulfillment from pushing boundaries, achieving goals, and expanding your experiences. But, on the other side, the unknown is intimidating, overwhelming, and scary.

Surely no other industry is as filled with risk-takers than the hotel industry, composed of hoteliers, franchisees, and independent hotel owners who have boldly changed hospitality over the years. One prime example of such entrepreneurship boldness is the father-son team, Victor Desai, an AAHOA Member since 2020, and Rushil Desai, who has been an AAHOA Member since 2016. This dynamic duo risked it all to take the independent hotel route. Today, they own and operate the Southern California hotels Lexen Hotel Hollywood, Lexen Hotel North Hollywood, and Hotel Lexen Newhall.

“There is always a risk being an independent hotel owner when you have to especially compete with all brands nearby,” said Victor, owner of Lexen Hotels. “But, providing a unique style and design, and adding all the amenities found in high-end hotels provide excellent customer service and marketing opportunities. I had faith that Hotel Lexen would be successful, and it indeed has been.”

The Lexen properties beautifully blend the rich culture of the local community and deliver an elegant boutique-style guest experience. For example, the North Hollywood location is made up of contemporary and modern design elements, fully embracing the area’s art district. On the other hand, Santa Clarita’s rich Western heritage is embedded in the Hotel Lexen Newhall location, where guests lounge in a modern rustic-style environment.

“We wanted every boutique hotel designed by us to have a wow factor,” Victor explained. “There had to be something unique and different that guests hadn’t experienced at major hotel chains.”

Victor kicked off his hospitality career in 1996 with a small independent brand. During his early days as an independent hotelier, he generated business and increased reservations with the assistance of a GDS platform.

“The first small independent hotel did great,” Victor said.

Several years later, Victor attended hospitality design conferences and trade shows and read articles about the new trends shaping hotel businesses. He began dreaming about owning a unique and special independent hotel that would stand out when travelers booked their lodging in Southern California. So, Victor launched the Hotel Lexen brand in 2016 by opening Lexen Hotel Hollywood, then later, opening Hotel Lexen North Hollywood in 2018 and Hotel Lexen Newhall in 2020.

“I didn’t have to follow any of the prototypes or designs required by the regular brands,” Victor explained. “Instead, I jumped into creating my boutique hotel, and not long after that, I received the IAHA Independent Hotel of the Year Award from AAHOA in 2020.”

a family affair

The father-son team stays on top of every detail it takes to run Lexen Hotels successfully. The daily operations include offering seamless customer service, meeting, and exceeding guest amenity expectations, maintaining a strong reputation online and within the community, and outperforming competitive brand hotels in the area. In fact, Victor partnered with a property management software company for his three Lexen properties in 2020.

“Our distinctive properties are in highly competitive markets, which – together with the rising cost of labor and pressures imposed by the pandemic operating environment – have made it essential to gain every operating advantage,” Victor shared in 2020.

The father-son team has done an incredible job staying on top of every task required to run the properties effectively.

“Lexen has been ranked No. 1,” Victor shared. “It’s tough to be independently owned, stay in the market, and compete with higher end brands. Our reviews are pretty good. We’re on top of everything.”

Rushil grew up watching his dad handle it all – the front desk, the marketing strategies, the maintenance requests, and more. When it was time to continue his education at California State University, Northbridge, pursuing a hospitality career was not at the top of Rushil’s mind. Instead, Rushil enrolled in computer science and engineering coursework. Around the same time, Victor started to develop the Lexen Hotel in North Hollywood, and Rushil stepped up to help his dad launch the independent property. This experience inspired Rushil to change his college major to business and play a more active role in his dad’s hotel business.

“I first started working as a front desk agent,” Rushil shared. “I was still in college while I was working. It was hard to focus on going to work and school simultaneously, but I learned how to manage my time.”

Today, Rushil takes the role of human resources manager at both properties. He handles payroll, tracks inventory, stays in touch with the housekeepers, and monitors the reviews from guests. His excellent industry experience leads to valuable advice for hoteliers.

“If you’re running a family business, you must be on top of your game and understand your reputation is on the line,” Rushil explained. “As an independent hotelier, you must take the initiative to inspect your hotel and talk to your employees and customers to see how your properties can improve. It is also crucial to understand upcoming deadlines for licenses and taxes.”

The two boutique Lexen hotels are thriving, with about 90 rooms collectively. There are plans to find the next urban downtown market for Lexen, Victor said.

Fortunately, the father-son collaboration will continue to grow stronger, showing that independent hotels are here to stay.

“Once I graduate, I’ll take a more active role in the family business and expand the Lexen brand,” Rushil said. “I want to help with quality control and train the right people to run the business. Maybe I will meet new managers and teach them to keep a lookout for everything.”


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