SAN DIEGO—Thirty years ago, a group of hoteliers formed the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) to address discrimination issues in the hospitality industry. Today, AAHOA, the world’s largest hotel owners association, has more members than ever, launched a scholarship for aspiring hoteliers and continues to educate its members across the country through various means.
“Today, I want to talk about history because there are a lot of young people who may not know what we went through and why,” said Michael Leven, AAHOA co-founder, at the 2019 AAHOA Convention & Trade Show, held at the San Diego Convention Center.
During his speech, he spoke about past discrimination, shared personal anecdotes and stressed the importance of AAHOA continuing to lead in the future.
“Now, the responsibility is even more important because AAHOA has its place,” Leven said.
After his speech, the AAHOA board awarded him a Lifetime Achievement award. The board also posthumously awarded a Lifetime Achievement award to Lee Dushoff, another key figure during the early days of the association.
To create opportunities for future industry leaders, AAHOA launched the Michael Leven and Lee Dushoff Scholarship for Compassionate Leadership at Kennesaw State University.
So far, $125,000 has been raised for the scholarship. The association is still accepting donations.
“When I look at everything this convention has to offer, I remember how overwhelming it can be,” said Jagruti Panwala, vice chairwoman and 2019 convention chair.
For example, this year’s trade show marks the largest trade show in AAHOA’s history.
“Our voice is louder, and more people are listening to what we have to say, and for one simple reason: AAHOA always delivers for its members,” said HP Patel, AAHOA chairman.
Some of the association’s latest figures include the following:
- AAHOA has grown to more than 18,500 members.
- Now, 45% of AAHOA’s members are lifetime members (more than 3,200 lifetime members were in attendance at the conference).
- AAHOA’s PAC raised $1.25 million in the 2018 election cycle, a 14% increase from 2016.
- 14,600 AAHOA members engaged in education in 2018, up 100%.
- There were 100 hotel owner-focused webinars in 2018.
- AAHOA hosted 182 events across the country in 2018, including the association’s annual conference, 100 town hall meetings, two national advocacy conferences and more.
“We are building on 30 years of hard work, selfless sacrifice and progress,” he said.
While many things at AAHOA are evolving, some things have stayed the same, said Rachel Humphrey, interim president and CEO of AAHOA, who spoke about the organization’s enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit over the decades.
“It’s an honor to help this association usher in its next decades of greatness,” she said.