Past perspectives


Past chairs share their thoughts on AAHOA’s history, its future, and its role in bridging the two

past perspectivesIt’s difficult to believe, but 2024 marks AAHOA’s 35th anniversary. Throughout that time, AAHOA has been fortunate enough to have countless talented, selfless, and visionary leaders among its ranks. To mark the occasion, we’re catching up with a few of AAHOA’s Past Chairs who helped lead this organization and remain key influential pillars in the industry.

nitin shahNitin Shah
1993-1994 Chairman

In my time, our main obstacles included discrimination, establishing the infrastructure, and having enough members and money. Now, that era has gone. We have the money; we have the office; we have the infrastructure. I think the biggest worry now is the franchising component. What used to cost 5% to franchisees has risen to 15% or 20%. In our time, there was no Expedia or So, on top of franchising fees, we’re paying third-party fees. And then you have Washington, D.C., coming up with all kinds of regulations. In my opinion, the focus should remain on helping hotel owners at a grassroots level.

mukeshMukesh (Mike) Patel
1998-1999 Chairman

Ownership of hotels by Indian-American immigrants grew steadily and dramatically during the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, yet there was considerable discrimination against our community by brands, banks, and insurers. And many non-Indian owners openly advertised their properties as “American-owned.” AAHOA was formed to fight this discrimination and to leverage the emerging economic power of Indian owners.

AAHOA has gone from a little-noticed startup to being a respected powerhouse in the hotel industry. We’ve earned that distinction by challenging the status quo on behalf of our members.

Our changing role in the hotel industry can be attributed to the changing characteristics of our owners. Initially we were a group of “accidental hoteliers” who hadn’t studied to be hoteliers or business owners, who were immigrants with few resources, and who often didn’t speak English as our native language.

Today, AAHOA members are typically second- and third-generation hoteliers who were born in the U.S. and speak fluent English, studied business or hospitality, and have the benefit of considerable financial resources. This makes us an organization that’s more sophisticated, more capable, and more entitled to shaping our industry.

nareshNaresh (Nash) Patel
2004-2005 Chairman

Reflecting on AAHOA’s remarkable 35-year journey brings a deep sense of pride and gratitude. My involvement with AAHOA was inspired by a shared commitment of hotel owners to foster collaboration and advocate for our collective interests. Observing AAHOA’s evolution since my initial membership has been a testament to its adaptability, embracing technological advancements, and expanding support services for members.

Looking forward, I envision AAHOA’s continued growth through educational initiatives, expanded networking opportunities, and proactive advocacy on behalf of hotel owners. In navigating the dynamic hospitality landscape, AAHOA must persist in representing members’ interests and remaining ahead of emerging trends.

The establishment of AAHOA was pivotal in providing a unified voice for hotel owners, promoting equitable practices and industry-friendly policies. Today, it stands as a platform for networking, knowledge-sharing, and collective advocacy.

hemant patelHemant Patel
2011-2012 Chairman

As one of the founding members of the AAHOA Board of Directors, I’ve been fortunate enough to share my volunteer service with many different community, city, and state organizations through the years. I was initially drawn to AAHOA because of the strength of the membership, and that strength remains as evident as ever today. The strength of the membership and our voices gives us better bargaining power in the industry.

During my tenure as AAHOA Chairman, I helped lead the expansion of the AAHOA Government Affairs office, because it was clear hoteliers’ interests weren’t being relayed to the legislators in our nation’s capital and around the country. Despite all the progress we’ve made, I believe AAHOA remains vital in the future vision of the industry.

alkesh patelAlkesh Patel
2012-2013 Chairman

AAHOA is the only association that provides the insight and resources necessary for the hoteliers and entrepreneurs looking to be hotel owners, and the organization has become the voice of the industry by representing the largest hotel owner and operator community.

In the future, AAHOA should continue to work hard to address the ongoing issues faced by today’s hoteliers, including franchising, financing, development, and operations.

The growth of the association speaks for itself as to why it was important to establish AAHOA. And, as we continue to grow, member needs and issues inevitably will change, so it’s necessary to have an association that provides a collective voice throughout that evolution.

bharatBharat (Bruce) Patel
2016-2017 Chairman

A collaborative AAHOA is the most productive kind of AAHOA. My hope is that our influence will aid our members and the industry as a whole to continue to grow. I envision future generations of hotel owners bringing new and innovative ideas that we can all benefit from together.

The hotel industry is a constantly evolving field, with new issues and concerns arising frequently. These issues include the state of the economy, maintaining a healthy balance between franchisors and franchisees, navigating the regulatory environment, and keeping up with potential legislation that could affect AAHOA Members and small businesses in the United States. We need to find solutions that benefit all parties involved so AAHOA Members can thrive, and our industry as a whole can continue to grow, creating opportunities for future generations.

AAHOA is the most active association of its kind, bringing members together through 150-plus events each year, including the industry’s largest trade show, AAHOACON. The networking opportunities alone have provided immense value to all attendees. AAHOA’s place in our industry has been deservedly established.

past perspectivesBhavesh Patel
2017-2018 Chairman

AAHOA has grown leaps and bounds since I became a member, by having a stronger voice in D.C. and on the state levels, adding more educational tools to help members, offering a massive Trade Show at AAHOACON with numerous value-added benefits to help members become better operators and owners.

AAHOA still has a long way to go. We need more of a unified voice, better working relationships with state associations, more ways to help members save money to get a better bottom line, additional ways to grow AAHOA’s bottom line to add more value for its members, and adopt new technologies that will help evolve the industry.

Education is the key to the success of AAHOA Members. The industry is always being targeted, and we need protection. Who else but associations like AAHOA to help protect us all?

jagruti panwalaJagruti Panwala
2019-2020 Chairwoman

All of us have moments of “tunnel vision” where we must concentrate on our day-to-day responsibilities at our companies and individual hotel properties and this is important, obviously. However, we don’t operate our businesses in a vacuum. There are market and regulatory forces outside our control as individuals and must be tackled together through the relationships and networks we build. This allows us to have more focused and strategic discussions with lawmakers, vendors, and brand partners across the lodging industry to ensure our collective voice is being heard. That, in a nutshell, is the importance of AAHOA.

I can personally attest that much of any success I’ve had in this industry can be attributed to the guidance, support, and collective effort I’ve received from my fellow AAHOA Members. None of us can achieve success alone.

vinay patelVinay Patel
2021-2022 Chair

I originally got involved with AAHOA because it was an opportunity to collaborate and help the industry as a whole. When you look back at AAHOA, as a membership group, the hoteliers have done so much for the industry. During the past 20 years, you talk about development and innovation to different brands – such as Hilton, Marriott, Choice, Wyndham – and a lot of what they’re able to do right now is because of the AAHOA membership.

I’ve been a member since 1992 and have seen the association evolve during the past 20 to 30 years in many different facets. Originally, AAHOA was small-time owners. All of a sudden, they now own big brands and larger properties. Now, there are big-time hoteliers. Nowadays, you see a lot of second- and third-generation hoteliers, and franchising is a big issue. The association constantly keeps pivoting to what the member needs and wants are. Some people don’t like constant change, but sometimes change is exactly what we need to evolve with the times.

I hope the association continues to be a pillar for the industry. I hope we’re able to continue to evolve based on what our membership wants and in the next 10, 15, 20, 30 years – 100 years, even – everyone will say, ‘This association continues to keep changing based on what the membership really wants.’ And I think it will, too.

nishantNishant (Neal) Patel
2022-2023 Chairman

AAHOA has changed tremendously since I first became a member. For one, AAHOA has been broadening its views as an association; we’re looking at things that we may have never looked at before. For example, AAHOA is helping members learn about incorporating technology to streamline the way we do business. AAHOA also holds hundreds of different events to cater different demographics. With events like HerOwnerhip or HYPE Ownership, AAHOA is launching initiatives aimed at hoteliers from all walks of life, and that’s something we never really did in the past.

The way I would like to see AAHOA’s growth and evolution manifest itself in the future is by ensuring every hotelier is an AAHOA Member. AAHOA is making waves in Washington D.C., but our reach shouldn’t stop there. AAHOA can help create relationships between the United States and other countries. We can help facilitate business between our membership and hoteliers around the world.


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