Tuesday, February 03, 2004

For a New Generation, Rooms to Succeed

Second Generation Desis, Its Not Your Parents' Hospitality Industry

Interesting article from the New York Times on how second generation desis are revamping the hospitality industry.

"Morning and night, Mr. Patel, an immigrant from the Indian state of Gujarat, manned the front desk and did repairs on a 60-room Econo Lodge in Bordentown, N.J., while his wife, Indu, and two children hauled suitcases, made up beds and vacuumed rooms. And the work paid off. At age 57, Mr. Patel owns not only the Econo Lodge but, with relatives, four other hotels.

As with thousands of other Indian hotel owners, Mr. Patel hoped his children would choose to stay in the hotel business, but he wanted them to work with bankers and brokers rather than as bellhops. So, with an immigrant's classic trust in education but a novel Indian twist, he helped put his son, Montu, and daughter, Payal, through hotel school, in their case the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University.

Immigrants from India - mostly from the state of Gujarat and many bearing the name Patel, which is common in the region - have, during the last three decades, quietly acquired more than one-third of the 53,000 hotels in the United States, most of them budget and mid-priced franchises, hotel industry officials say. But this strike-it-rich story has more recently taken a compelling though not entirely surprising turn.

The Indians' knowledge of English and a commercial savvy prized by their culture gave them a distinct leg up on other immigrants, and they had a network of relatives and close friends to help out. Like much of India, Gujarat, on the west coast just north of Bombay, has a deeply rooted ethic of hospitality. "There's actually a phrase in Hindi: 'A guest is like God,' " Professor Dev said.

Mr. Bhakta (formerly Patel - he changed his name to make it distinct) said that his 8,400 members own 20,000 hotels worth $37 billion, including half the nation's Days Inns, half its Ramadas, 40 percent of its Holiday Inns."

I didn't realize that Indian-Americans (and mostly Gujaratis) controlled such a large share of the hotel industry. It is an amazing feat when you consider that there are only about 2 million Indian-Americans out of over 290 million people in the United States.


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