HB ON THE SCENE: Mike Leven Addresses Next Generation of Hoteliers

NASHVILLE—At the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) Conference held here at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, industry vet Mike Leven, one of the cofounders of AAHOA, addressed second- and third-generation hoteliers.

“It’s an honor for me to be back at AAHOA,” he said, noting that he could talk about the history of AAHOA, but he wanted to talk about the future. Referencing the conference’s theme—”Success by Design”—Leven asked, “What happens when you are successful? The natural way things work is that you stop doing what made you get there in the first place…I believe the status quo is a prescription for failure, that all of you in the second and third generation of the founders of AAHOA have responsibility to continue to be dynamic in the search for change, the search for doing things differently, in the search for not being satisfied.”

Leven noted that the world is different than the one the first generation of hoteliers faced, and that the second- and third-generation hoteliers have to look ahead to the next cycle. “All of you will be involved in that cycle. If you operate the same, if you make the same decisions that made you successful in one cycle, they may not be the decisions that will make you successful in the future,” he said. “Look around. This country is not the same country that your fathers or grandfathers, mothers or grandmothers came to. The opportunities are different. The stresses are different. The opinions are different. The way of doing business is different. The government is different. What you see on television everyday is how these differences of opinions may change the future of the United States, a country that most of the people who founded AAHOA came to for the opportunities that they took advantage of and the opportunities that made them successful.

“As a warning I say to you all—success requires a drive to continue to be better, to continue to be vigilant, to continue to grow, to continue to learn and to continue to take advantage of your work ethic, your intelligence and your ethics to do the right things to be successful,” he continued. “Please don’t take what you have for granted. It will not last.”

Leven recalled the organization’s first conference, which had 125 attendees. “I’m so proud to have been part of the beginning and I hope I last long enough to see 16,000 [AAHOA members] go to 20,000 and 50% of the market go to 60 or 70% of the market,” he said. “It won’t happen [without]the same energy, the same significant paying attention to duty, to employees and guests—then you will be successful in the future as you have been in the past.”  

—Nicole Carlino