After 23 years, the Asian American Hotel Owners Association is still going strong. Founded in 1989, AAHOA continues to grow and this year will top the 11,000-member mark, an amazing number. What those 10,000-plus members represent in the industry is even more impressive: more than 20,000 hotels totaling $128 billion in value.
For proof of that, you didn't need to look any further than yesterday's opening general session that included an industry leaders panel with moderator Buggsi Patel of BHG Hotels, Navin Dimond of Stonebridge Companies, Bharat Patel of Sun Development, Vinay Patel of SREE Hotels, D.J. Rama of JHM Hotels and Mit Shah of Noble Investment Group. The panelists, and their companies, represented 35,000 hotel rooms, said Buggsi Patel, adding that “you can see the power of the people in our association.”
“Who ever would have thought we'd get to 10,000 members,” asked Vinay Patel. “The biggest challenge and opportunity for this organization is how do we involve the second and now third generation that may have been disenfranchised with what AAHOA has been?”
The leaders discussed the future of the association and how to keep it moving forward and attracting new members. Navin Dimond suggested tweaking the mission statement as the group's reason for being has changed through the years.
Bharat Patel was the most outspoken, saying the focus had to be on education and the association had to do a better job of attracting the younger generation he sees at all the brand conferences, but not at AAHOA's annual event. “As long as we're a political association and not a business association, those kids won't be here,” he bluntly said. “We've made strides in recent years, but the entire board is a political circus. That needs to stop.”
“We're not going to change that,” said Mit Shah. “Politics is an innate part of our culture ... Instead, we need to be relevant for those 11,000 members. We're not going to make everyone happy, but we need to make it as good as it can be for those owners.”