Outgoing AAHOA Chairman Hemant Patel reflects on his 2011-2012 term.
Outgoing AAHOA Chairman Hemant Patel reflects on his 2011-2012 term.
Retrospective A Statesman Says FarewellALB sat down for an AAHOA Chairman Hemant Patel on stage during the 2011extensive interview AAHOA Annual Convention & Trade Show in Las Vegaswith outgoingAAHOA ChairmanHemant Patel,who highlightedthe association’ssuccesses during histenure and sharedhis favorite memoriesW hen Hemant Patel became an AAHOA Board member, the association had between3,000 and 4,000 members. Patel envi-sioned the membership would even-tually reach 7,000. When membershipsurged past 9,000, Patel placed a tagon his car that reads “AAHOA 9K.” After more than a decade servingon the AAHOA Board, Patel becameChairman on June 18, 2011 duringthe AAHOA Annual Convention &Trade Show in Las Vegas, promis-ing to harness the incredible powerof the members’ energy to benefitall. During his tenure, membershipreached 11,000 and AAHOA hasgrown into a force perhaps unimagi-nable when Patel first joined. “I can proudly say we hit therecord high for membership. So nowI need to get a tag that says ‘AAHOA11K,’” he said. “Our membershiphas grown. Our membership is moreinvolved. They see the value of the By Jonathan Springston, tion allies made frequent trips tomembership because we did things Washington, D.C. to meet with and AAHOA Lodging Businessthat are important for their pocket- lobby members of Congress on thebooks.” association’s legislative priorities. “We live and breathe politics September’s Annual Congressional Political Advocacy whether we like it or not,” Patel said. Day was a huge success, with the as-As Chairman, Patel placed a focus “Getting involved in politics is a sociation holding 91 meetings withon fair franchising, banking issues, prudent job for a businessman. We members of Congress and their staffespecially foreclosures, and govern- have to be involved because every representing 29 states.ment affairs. Always known for his decision that is made is going to af- Officers and several Board mem-passion for politics, it is this latter fect our pocketbook.” bers met with officials from the FDICissue for which Patel may best be Officers, Board members, to discuss the detrimental impactremembered. Ambassadors, and other associa- of loss-share agreements and with26 AAHOA Lodging Business MAY 2012
RetrospectiveHouse Majority Leader Eric Cantor(R-Va.) to discuss small businessneeds. At the end of 2011, Congresspassed a bill that calls on the FDIC tostudy bank failures. “We spent two hours [with theFDIC] discussing how banks areabusing the loss-share agreements.It helps the bankers and the peoplewho are opportunistic about capital-izing on a downfall,” Patel said.“When a bank takes over a hotel,that results in a loss of minimumwage jobs. At one time, we employedclose to 1.3 million minimum wageworkers. Currently, we have around700,000. So you can see the aftermath Hemant Patel (center) will soonof the banking foreclosures and bad join the ranks of distinguished pasteconomy. These people serve our Chairmen, like Nash Patel (right)day-to-day income.” and tourism in the United States.If there are concerns, you have “We have to be involved and active. If there are concerns, youto bring it your congressman or have to bring it your congressman or congresswoman,” Patel said. “Let’s not assume that an elected officialcongresswoman. Let’s not assume that knows everything. We have to give them what we know because we arean elected official knows everything. the experts of the industry. We show them the true picture. Someone who has no experience running a hotel has no idea how much cost is in- AAHOA formed the Banking With the help of Rep. Bill Posey volved in just serving one breakfast.Task Force Committee to formulate (R-Fla.) and Florida Ambassadors, Or just having four extra pillows instrategies to combat foreclosures AAHOA managed to gain serious the room.”and other financial issues. Repre- congressional support for “Thesentatives from Delta Capital Group Common Sense Economic Recov- Fair Franchisingdelivered presentations at each ery Act.” After extensive lobbying Before Patel became Chairman,AAHOA Regional meeting to edu- efforts, President Obama in January many members called on AAHOAcate members on best practices for signed an executive order introduc- to increase pressure on Choice inrestructuring debt. ing new initiatives to boost travel order to get the hotel giant to back off on some of its more unrealistic mandates and improve its overall relationship with franchisees. In late September, AAHOA sent Choice a letter giving the brand 90 days to come to the negotiating table to sort out some of these lingering issues. “We got Choice to understand that this is a partnership, that we need to play on a level playing field, and they agreed,” Patel said. “We had disagreements but divorce was not an option. We sat at the table [and] we came to a liveable solution that is in the best interests of our franchisees.” With the input and leadershipHemant Patel prepares for a televised interview in of people like attorney RobertWashington, D.C. during the 2011 AAHOA Legislative Summit Zarco and past AAHOA Chair-MAY 2012 AAHOA Lodging Business 27
Retrospective faith and dealing, in what areas are you lacking,” he said. “Along with forming coalitions with different franchise groups, we are trying to go on the state level to make some changes in franchise law. It will take a lot of effort because you are fight- ing an uphill battle with some big companies. It’s going to take time.” Women Step Up As AAHOA continued delivering on promises, members became more active, especially women and young professionals. The Women In Hotel Leadership (WIHL) Conference attracted hun-Patel with Rep. FredericaWilson (D-Fla.) in her dreds of AAHOA women to Dallas inWashington, D.C. office November. The Women’s Committee presented several seminars at AA- The biggest achievement of thismen, Choice agreed to drop the80 percent RevPAR requirementfrom its Impact Policy and changethe makeup of the Choice HotelsOwners Council (CHOC) to include negotiation is that we got a clause,single-property owners, amongother agreements. in writing from Choice, of good “It’s a relationship that has to bebeneficial to both sides. When we faith and fair dealing. That has now set a standard for every companysee unfair balance on one side, thatneeded to be addressed for a longtime. Every year, franchise compa-nies have been putting more andmore burdens on hotels. That takes that does business with AAHOA,away from that top line,” Patel said.“At the same time, there is a fear including vendors.about unfair competitionfrom the same brands.” HOA Regional meetings that “The biggest achievement offered sound advice fromof this negotiation is that knowledgeable speakers.we got a clause, in writing The Board passed a budg-from Choice, of good faith et that allows for 10 womenand fair dealing,” he added. to travel to Washington, D.C.“That has now set a stand- for various lobbying events.ard for every company that The Women’s Committeedoes business with AAHOA, even expressed interest inincluding vendors.” forming its own political Last year, AAHOA committee to enhance theirformed alliances with other advocacy efforts.franchise companies to draw “Our ladies are the back-up the Universal Franchisee bone of our success,” PatelBill of Rights, an expansion said. “If you had to take theof the fundamentals outlined ladies out of our AAHOAin AAHOA’s Points of Fair equation, we would not beFranchising. As Chairman, here today.”Patel continued the associa- AAHOA eMarket andtion’s efforts to ensure fran-chise companies participate Patel believes strongly in OTAin fair faith and dealing. forming political alliances, As Patel’s time as Chairman regardless of party affiliation, drew to a close, AAHOA “We asked every brand, in order to achieve goalsunder the guidance of fair had managed to pre-enroll28 AAHOA Lodging Business MAY 2012
Retrospectivehundreds of members into the tion. It even exists inassociation’s online procurement families.”cooperative (AAHOA eMarket) and Despite a few dif-its online travel agency (mybestho- ferences, Patel creditstelrate.com). the Board, as well “Marketing is our biggest chal- as other non-Boardlenge,” Patel said of the OTA. “Our members serving onone strength is our membership committees and thebut we don’t have the marketing AAHOA staff, for de-dollars. If you look at [traditional] livering on values.OTAs, they spend over $300 million “We stayed focusedon marketing. It’s a David versus on our core issues andGoliath fight.” we delivered on them. “It will take a couple of years to If not for my Board, Irealize the full vision of these,” he would not succeed,”added. “It was a long-term objective. he said. “I give them aWe had to work hard this year to get lot of credit. Our newpeople signed up. Once people start Board members weresigning up, it gets healthier.” very constructive.” Internal Politics Looking AheadWhile leading the association Patel relishes thethrough these many challenges, time he spent leadingPatel had to carefully navigate the AAHOA but is lookinglandscape of internal Board politics. forward to spending “It was my challenge to keep my time tending to hisBoard focused on important issues business interests inand not to focus on small issues Miami and catching up Patel on Capitol Hill,that divide us,” Patel said. “Internal with family. September 2011politics, as long as it’s healthy, is all “There are chal-good. There is always going to be lenges when you travel late, catch the flight, make sure youinternal politics in any big organiza- a lot. You sleep late, you wake up are home at your son’s school or for your wife’s anniversary,” he said. “I’ve done this for the last 10 years and actively for the last four. I have to thank my family who did not see me at home for many days.” As Ex-Officio, Patel plans to take on a more limited role and support new Chairman Alkesh Patel. “It will be Alkesh’s time to shine. Alkesh is a very close friend and I will do anything to help him succeed. He has been vital in my success,” he said. “I want the Board, just as they followed me, to follow Alkesh and help him succeed.” After a couple of years, Patel hopes to run for political office, though which position remains to be seen. At the end of the day, Patel believes his accomplishments and how he carried himself as Chairman will be remembered positively. “AAHOA is a passion. I do it with passion. I do it because I know I’m doing something for our members. If my actions are right, my actions will Hemant Patel with his take care of my reputation. That’s good friend and incoming how I have acted as a leader and Chairman Alkesh Patel public figure,” he said.MAY 2012 AAHOA Lodging Business 29