AAHOA Stays The Course; Membership Supports Leadership

ATLANTA? Where do they go from here? Now that founding sponsor Cendant Corp. has split from the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, deciding just days before the organization?s 10th annual conference, AAHOA attendees wondered whether the rift was permanent or just a spat that will eventually be resolved. Cendant said it made the move because AAHOA had ?lost sight of its mission and turned its focus to interference of the business and contractual relationships between [Cendantand [its]valued customers.? AAHOA?s outgoing chairman Mike Patel and other officers disagreed with Cendant?s position but felt strongly that the issue would be resolved in time. ?We regret Cendant?s decision,? said AAHOA Executive Director Fred Schwartz, ?but we don?t resent it.? The news elicited highly emotional responses from a wide array of lodging industry figures and hoteliers. US Franchise Systems CEO Mike Leven, a founding sponsor of AAHOA, commented that it was some of the most politically and emotionally charged activity he has witnessed in more than 30 years in lodging. AAHOA?s 4,000-plus members reacted to Cendant?s announcement with surprise, anger and consternation. ?The timing of the announcement, right before our conference, says a great deal about why they did this,? said entrepreneur Virendra Patel of New York. ?Maybe they are threatened by how strong AAHOA has become. But this shouldn?t have happened. I think AAHOA and Cendant will eventually work things out.? Some Cendant officials commented privately that their issue with AAHOA revolves around the organization?s involvement in legal matters between the company and its licensees. In a letter to AAHOA members and the press, Cendant said it would continue to support AAHOA?s mission to promote education, professionalism and fight prejudice, but it could not support the organization?s leadership as it had strayed from the mission statement. Leven of USFS said he can see the reasoning and strategy behind both parties? actions. ?AAHOA?s leadership has the right to act on behalf of its membership for improved conditions,? Leven said. ?Mike Patel and the board chose to put a stake in the ground in regard to fair franchising issues and Cendant may take umbrage with that, but you?ve got to give Mike credit? he has gotten people?s attention. Cendant took issue with AAHOA?s involvement in legal issues like the Power Up program, and they may have overstepped their boundaries. But you?ve got to reach farther when you are fighting for revolutionary change.? ?Mike is an aggressive leader,? Leven continued. ?He?s captured the hopes and dreams of the membership and he?s done a lot of good for them. But I recognize Cendant?s point of view also. He?s got to get the sides back together. Now you?ll see whether he?ll be remembered as a demagogue or a true leader depending on whether he effects long-term change.? Patel and the rest of the AAHOA leadership remained resolute in their mission to aid members in obtaining equitable agreements from the national hotel chains and vowed to continue to pressure franchisors to adopt AAHOA?s 12 Points of Fair Franchising. During the conference, AmeriHost Inns CEO Mike Holtz publicly agreed to adopt the 12 Points and to become a founding sponsor of AAHOA. The move was met with overwhelming approval from conference attendees. Yet the controversial but popular Patel ruffled more than a few feathers with his general address at the conference, which featured what many felt were loaded images from the Oscar-winning film ?GHANDI.? The scenes depicted the revolutionary leader vowing civil disobedience to a British military officer in protest of English presence in India. While the scenes? along with Patel?s speech? garnered an impassioned response from the audience, some attendees expressed emotions ranging from shock to disgust. While many of those who protested were non-Asian industry executives and insiders, a few high-profile AAHOA members private

Comments are closed.