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Let's take a moment to combine and question the ideals of a hard working, over-achieving, entirely successful entrepreneur: the answer is ChandraKant (C.K.) Patel, the new Chairman of AAHOA. As a founding member of AAHOA, he has now placed himself in a position to maximize his ability to fulfill this Association's highest potential.

However, this success has not come over night. Patel's broad spectrum of experience starts in the Hotel industry and extends into the Banking industry. With a diversified portfolio, he attributes his one-of-a-kind success story to the actions of his parents and grandfather who motivated him to serve the community. His grandfather was a freedom fighter in India and always inspired him to join an association dedicated to helping others. Since inception of AAHOA, he is the only board member elected as "Director At Large" for three consecutive terms. The reason, in part, is because he always pushed educational programs such as CHO (Certified Hotel Owners), which is now recognized by many franchisors. He also chaired the E-Commerce Committee during which time he advocated Web-based technology for greater communication within the association and building alliances with vendors and business partners for the procurement of lodging products. He will continue to work on this again to make this more user friendly. He also worked to develop the 101,000 Room Nights Drive for America to benefit deployed military personnel - a program well received and recognized by former President George Bush, Sr.

ON FRANCHISING ISSUES Patel has always taken the franchising issue very seriously and has devoted substantial time to this subject, including assisting with updating the AAHOA 12 Points of Fair Franchising; analyzing whether the various leading hotel franchisors are in compliance with these 12 Points; negotiating with the franchisors for more balanced franchise agreements for the benefit of the franchisees and the franchise systems overall; preparing and releasing the 2008 and 2009 Progress Reports; engaging leading attorneys and elected officials in probative discussions about ways to improve the franchisee industry; and hosting Brand Meetings, a Franchise Advisory Council (FAC) Summit and fair franchising educational sessions to promote fair franchising for the members. This year, with the help of his fair franchising team, he was able to help elect the right candidates on the board of Choice Hotels Owners Council (CHOC). He deemed this a necessity as over 60% of Choice Hotel owners are AAHOA members and equal representation was lacking here. He also encourages members to get involved in any and all franchise advisory councils (FACs) and franchise advisory boards (FABs) of all franchise brands. He looks to devote more time and effort on this issue in the upcoming year. When asked if AAHOA will someday have it's own franchise - he responded that to be slightly wishful thinking, as it will need lots of capital and membership support.

C K Patel with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi

Mike Leven is the man who has mentored Patel into who he is today. Leven cofounded AAHOA with 12 members in 1989 growing to some 10,000 members today. As an industry leader in Hospitality, Fred Schwartz - Pres AAHOA, CK Patel, David Pepper of Choice Hotels, Steve Mogck Leven has spent his entire 42-year career in the hotel industry. From 1985 to 1990, Leven was President of Days Inn of America, where he led initiatives to hire older workers, people with disabilities and the homeless. Patel and Leven share many of the same characteristics. As a guide to effective leadership, Patel plans to expand on Leven's mantra as chairman— work hard, help others and connect —as his roadmap during his term. This resonates with the mission of the association, which is to promote and protect the interests of its members by inspiring excellence through programs and initiatives in advocacy, industry leadership, professional development, membership benefits and community involvement. "As a membership organization, we need to educate our members on all issues including on-going dialogue with franchisors, legislative updates and how to effectively communicate with elected officials and so on so members feel they belong to a community. We also ask for feedback from them to ensure that what we do is on target."

Fred Schwartz - Pres AAHOA, CK Patel, David Pepper of Choice Hotels, Steve Mogck of Carlson Hotels,and Nitin Shah - former chairman of AAHOA

While Patel has specific goals for his year as Chairman, he is also adamant about continuing the tasks set aside by the previous chairmen. Also, he will continue his work on franchising, increase AAHOA membership, improve political involvement and governmental affairs, and enhance the education to remain up to date with today's needs. He also believes that women are the backbone of our industry but may be lacking in participation. There is a plan to have women's forums at every regional conference. In addition, he also plans to have special Leadership Conferences for the youth population. Keep a lookout for more announcements on these and other issues at the Convention. He will encourage women and youths to attend AAHOA events by reducing fees. It is important to cater to our youth population because they are the future leaders of this Association and says a career in hospitality industry can be a wise choice. His political agenda is aiming to continue to have more legislative summits, increase PAC funding and encourage members to be politically involved at the local, state and federal levels. He is passionate about educating children and therefore is a firm believer in "Ekal Vidyalaya, " a charitable foundation, which provides education to children in rural and tribal areas in India.

CK Patel with Rep. Joe Wilson (R-2nd) of SC.

CK Patel with Rep Howard Coble (R-6th) of NC

Patel strongly believes in collaborating with other associations representing hotel constituents, e.g. NABHOOD, AH&LA, ARDA, AAFD, IAFD, CFA, USTA and others. "Each organization has its purpose and expertise in different fields but we need to have a show of force and unity by building a coalition. By working together, we can overcome hurdles and achieve lots. It's a win-win situations for all involved," he says.

To be vigilant in these challenging times, Patel believes in having a good environmental program that can be utilized by hotel owners to, not only, save money but also to protect the environment.

Patel is disappointed in the structure of the recent healthcare reform that just got signed into law by President Obama. "This hurts all small business owners as we'll be paying more taxes and putting up with more federal mandates and more government interference. Instead, he says, the government needs to focus more on healthcare insurance reform.

Patel sees a slow recovery after 3rd quarter of 2010 but is optimistic about seeing a positive change in 2012. The business cycle will begin to move up and RevPAR trends will turn positive. "There is an imbalance in supply and demand. Supply exceeds demand but he does not anticipate too much new hotel inventory this year and this imbalance, hopefully will eventually balance itself. We need corporate travel to resume again and I urge all my members to cut down on expenses and try to survive this tidal-wave of global recession," he says. He also would like his members to work closely with AAHOA in these trying times.

Patel hails from Vaghashi, Gujarat and is passionate about his birth country. He is planning to take a delegation to India in his term but with a totally different concept. He had joined the AAHOA delegation to India in January 2010 and had met with different tourism government officials and also had the privilege of having a closed-door meeting with the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Mr. Narendra Modi.

This will be a busy year for Patel as he also serves as director on the board of the American Association of Franchisees & Dealers, not to mention his resignation from the board of Hometown Community Bank due to heavy workload he is going to inherit with his new position at AAHOA. Traveling schedule will be heavy but he says support from his wife Alka is outstanding and he truly appreciates her total devotion to his career needs. They have two children, Deepam and Shama. 

[ By: Nalini Raja ]