Last year, Jagruti Panwala became the Asian American Hotel Owners Association’s (AAHOA) first female secretary. As is the association’s custom, she has moved up the ladder to treasurer, and next year, she will become vice chairwoman. It all leads to 2019, the group’s 30th anniversary year, when she’ll become chairwoman of the largest hotel owners association in the world.
Panwala is also president and CEO of asset protection company Wealth Protection Strategies; an owner of a group of hotels with her husband; and a mother of two children. Despite a full plate, she felt it was time for a change at AAHOA.
“When I considered running for office and what it would mean to become the first chairwoman of the association, I thought long and hard about whether the industry was ready. I decided to take the leap and go for it, and I’m glad I did,” she said.
Panwala was born in Surat, India, and came to the U.S. when she was 15. Joining the family business—hospitality—was natural. “I bought my first independent hotel with my dad as a young adult,” she said. “I had a strong support system, and there was a comfort level for us. As a young entrepreneur and an individual who wanted to earn a living owning my own business, I saw it as a good opportunity and a good fit.”
Panwala noted that one of her biggest priorities at AAHOA is advocacy. “Any opportunity I get—whether it’s at the local, state or federal level—I make sure I attend and represent AAHOA,” said Panwala. “Fifteen years ago, hoteliers didn’t worry as much about laws and regulations. We were more concerned with how to fill up rooms, increasing our ROI, getting our ADR up. By meeting with decision-makers regularly, we’re able to share our real-world experiences and provide insight on how we’re affected by certain issues.”
Soon, she will take on the highest role in the organization, and she is excited for the opportunity. “I am looking forward to the responsibility, which is huge,” she said. “Leading 17,000-plus hotel owners is not a small task. But, I am confident that I, my fellow officers and our board will work together to ensure that our association and our collective industry goals and positions are met at all levels.”