Top icons and speakers mark AAHOA’s best convention ever

(L-R) Immediate Past Chairman Alkesh Patel greets Chairman Mehul Patel
(L-R) Immediate Past Chairman Alkesh Patel greets Chairman Mehul Patel

HOUSTON: The four-day 2013 Annual Convention & Trade Show of Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, turned out to be a huge success judging from the attendance and the quality of the programs highlighting the meet.

As the largest annual gathering of hoteliers, the Convention attracts hoteliers and vendors from all over the country to network to make deals and to take advantage of superior professional development opportunities. The theme of this year’s Annual Convention was “Inspired by the Past, Building for the Future,” and it fittingly captured the energy and passion of AAHOA members as they gathered in the heart of Texas. One of the highlights – the two-day trade show – surpassed all previous marks by hosting more than 400 exhibitors.

Another highlight of the event was the captivating guest speakers. The Keynote speaker on Thursday, March 28 was General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.). For over 50 years, General Powell has devoted his life to public service culminating as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for both President George H.W. Bush and for President Bill Clinton, the first African American to do so.

AAHOA also welcomed Steve Forbes, the well-known CEO of Forbes and Editor-In-Chief of Forbes magazine, as well as PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra K. Nooyi during the Opening General Session on Wednesday, March 27 and Howard Putnam, the former President & CEO of Southwest Airlines, during the General Session on Friday, March 29.

“This stellar lineup of speakers and icons within their respective industries just set the stage for one of our best conventions ever,” said beaming AAHOA Chairman Mehul Patel. “AAHOA members came to Houston from all over the country to learn from the best in terms of how to achieve the highest levels of success.” Pointing out as the Convention chair, he observed that “every aspect of our agenda was carefully planned to offer a well-rounded experience that our attendees would never forget.”

In addition to these dynamic speakers, AAHOA presented an Industry Issues Panel discussion moderated by former AAHOA Chairman H.P. Rama. This discussion included industry executives such as Wayne Goldberg, President & CEO of La Quinta Corporation; Kirk Kinsell, President, The Americas of InterContinental Hotels Group; Steve Joyce, President & CEO of Choice Hotels International; and Arne Sorenson, President & CEO of Marriott International.

These high-profile industry leaders discussed a wide range of issues affecting the hospitality industry. They also provided insights regarding strategies and solutions to overcome the biggest obstacles facing the industry. The Convention showcased an exciting lineup of education sessions in addition to special conferences for both Young Professionals on Wednesday, March 27 and Women in Hotel Leadership on Thursday, March 28. During these interactive sessions, attendees heard from industry professionals along with legal and financial experts on how to handle the biggest issues confronting the hospitality industry today.

Attendees also enjoyed mouth-watering Indian cuisine and dazzling entertainment featuring some of Bollywood’s biggest names, including Mauli Dave and her team of dancers, singers, and musicians supplemented with some of the hottest names in comedy performances by Dan Nainan, Kapil Sharma and Mantra.

No AAHOA Annual Convention & Trade Show would be complete without a spectacular Gala Night celebration. On the final night of the event, Friday, March 29, AAHOA hosted a night to remember featuring top-notch cuisine and entertainment. Headlining this year’s Gala Night were electric performances by Richa Sharma and Kamal.

“AAHOA Annual Conventions are already known throughout the industry for providing a wealth of personal and professional growth opportunities, and this year’s event did not disappoint,” said AAHOA President Fred Schwartz. “The energy and passion was apparent from minute one, and this event offered something for everyone.”

AAHOA founded in 1989, is now one of the fastest-growing organizations in the industry, with more than 11,000 members owning more than 20,000 hotels that total $128 billion in property value. AAHOA members employ 578,600 full and part-time workers with a $9.4 billion payroll. AAHOA officers include Chairman Mehul Patel, Vice Chairman Pratik Patel; Treasurer Jay “Jimmy” Patel; Secretary Bharat “Bruce” Patel and President Fred Schwartz, each of whom works closely with a 33-member Board of Directors to provide direction for the association.

AAHOA recognized its award winners at the 2013 AAHOA Annual Convention.
The winners honored were: Paresh Patel of Delaware received the AAHOA Award for Excellence which recognizes the Asian American hotelier who has made a significant contribution to the lodging industry.

Dipesh Patel of Florida received the Outstanding Young Professional Hotelier Award that recognizes an individual under the age of 30 who has displayed a potential for development and success.

Priti Patel of Georgia and Nancy Johnson, Executive Vice President, Development, the Americas for Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, each received the Outstanding Woman Hotelier of the Year Award that recognizes the woman hotelier who has demonstrated strong leadership qualities and made significant contributions to the industry and her community.

Former AAHOA Chairman Mukesh Mowji of California received the Cecil B. Day Community Service Award, which recognizes an individual who has demonstrated a strong commitment to serving the Asian American community. US Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) and US Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) each received the Political Forum Award for Advocacy which recognizes an individual extensively involved with helping to advance AAHOA’s mission and the concerns of its members by participating in the legislative process.

Haroon Khawaja of Florida received the Outreach Award for Philanthropy which recognizes an individual who is deeply involved with philanthropic and charitable activities, either locally or abroad. Jagubhai Patel of Los Angeles, California, received the IAHA Independent Hotel of the Year Award which honors an independent hotel that sets a high standard of excellence in quality, service and guest satisfaction.

Chairman’s Awards were presented to the following individuals for their dedicated service to AAHOA and the hospitality industry: Bakula Patel, Emerald Isle, N.C.; Bankim Patel, Orange, Calif.; Divyesh Desai, Portland, Ore.; Himanshu Vyas, Gujarat, India; Kamlesh Patel, Carrolton, Texas; Mahendra Patel, Portland, Ore.; Mukund Patel, Atlanta, Ga.; and Suresh Patel, Manning, S.C.
“These award winners underscore the special qualities which are the basis for their success in business and in their communities,” said Fred Schwartz, AAHOA President.

“We are the youngest group of officers in the history of AAHOA and our generation is different,” explains Chairman Mehul Patel. “As a board, we are ambitious and eager, we’re resourceful, and we multi-task. Now we’re bringing those qualities to our leadership of AAHOA.”
When accepting the chairmanship of AAHOA on the concluding Gala Night of the Annual Convention in Houston, Mehul unveiled a slogan that captures the attitude he brings to his new responsibilities: “Next Is Now.”
“We’re the next generation of hoteliers who are taking AAHOA to the next level with the next wave of programs – and we’re doing it now,” emphasized Mehul.

“The energy and vision of this new board are sure to put the unmatched reach and resources of AAHOA to good use,” said Fred Schwartz, President of AAHOA. “We are well positioned to achieve a new level of results in programs and progress that our members want, need, and deserve.”

AAHOA received a Congressional recognition during the Gala night on March 29 highlighting achievements of the hoteliers, their struggles and their contributions to the society at large.

2013-2014 New Board
AAHOA has elected new Board members to complete its Board of Directors for the 2013-2014 term holding elections at the Convention. The AAHOA membership elected Bharat “Bruce” Patel, CHO as the association’s newest Secretary. Prior to his election, Bruce Patel served as a Director at Large for AAHOA. The 2013-2014 Board of Directors comprises the following Officers and Directors, with the terms of the newly elected members indicated below:

Chairman Mehul B. Patel, Vice Chairman Pratik R. Patel, Treasurer Jay R. “Jimmy” Patel, Secretary Bharat “Bruce” Patel, President Fred Schwartz. Immediate Past Chairman, Alkesh R. Patel,
There are twenty Regional Directors covering the entire length and breadth of the country, seven Directors at Large , two Female Director at Large, Jagruti Panwala for Eastern Division, and Komal “Tina” Patel for Western Division.
Dave Patel will be the new Young Professional Director while Rajan Batra was appointed to a 2-year term as Allied Director at Large.

Ramesh Soparawala & Chris Carlson

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