AAHOA FLEXES ITS POLITICAL MUSCLE

The Asian American Hotel Owners Association threw a party for itself in late March, drawing about 5,000 to San Antonio for its convention and trade show. Ashwin “Ash” Patel and his collegial style succeeded the charismatic Dilipkumar R.”Danny” Patel as chairman, AAHOA issued a report interpreting and criticizing the franchise practices of Accor, Carlson, Choice, La Quinta and Wyndham, and Tom Netting, managing director of convention hotel the Grand Hyatt San Antonio, apologized for the condition of his $285-million, 34-story property.

In the evening the March 26-29 convention opened, more than 100 guests had to be relocated from the Grand Hyatt because their rooms weren't finished. “I want to take this opportunity…to say how excited we are” that the Grand Hyatt was selected as this year's official AAHOA hotel, Netting told the assembly the following morning. “I want to apologize for the inconveniences.”

Despite the Hyatt situation, the convention was a success, drawing more than 240 vendors and thousands of hotel owners and executives to the striking and stylish Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. With a membership of nearly 9,000, AAHOA owns more than 22,000 hotels representing $60 billion in property value; Ash Patel says business is good despite today's “economic jitters.”

How powerful AAHOA is came clear when Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao addressed the membership March 27, followed the next day by Kay Bailey Hutchinson, the Texas senator steering Arizona colleague John McCain's Presidential bid in Texas.

Chao and Hutchinson delivered similar messages, favoring lower taxes, fewer regulations and weaker unions. Ash Patel says AAHOA hasn't yet decided whether it will endorse a presidential candidate, but both he and Danny Patel encouraged members to become more politically involved; Danny strongly urged them, in both English and Gujarati, to come up with $1 million for a political action committee.

Next year's AAHOA conference will be in Washington, DC.

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