Home Hotels Why So Many Motels & Hotels Are Owned By Indian-Americans

Why So Many Motels & Hotels Are Owned By Indian-Americans

by SharonKurheg

The Global Hyatt Brand is owned by the Pritzker family. What eventually became Marriot International was started, and is still owned, by the Marriott family. Although it’s changed hands a few times, the Hilton brand of hotels was started by the Hilton family in the early 20th century.

All three of these large, well-known hotel brands were started by white American citizens. But if you start looking at smaller hotels and motels, especially the privately-owned ones that aren’t chains, you discover that a lot of them are owned by Indian-Americans, many of them first, second, or even third generation immigrants. How that came to be is pretty interesting…

After watching this video, I HAD to find out more, especially about this “Patel Motel Cartel.”

The New York Times ran their piece about the Patel Hotel Cartel in 1999 and it goes into much more detail than the video. Some highlights:

  • When one buys a hotel, you have to have so many tens of thousands of dollars available for the loan. Would-be motel owners will put down as much as they can afford and their extended families will all chip in for the rest
  • At the time of the article (granted, 20+ years ago), roughly 70% of all Indian motel owners — or about 1/3 of all motel owners in the U.S. — were named Patel. It’s a surname that indicates they are members of a Gujarati Hindu subcaste.
  • Why do so many Indian-Americans go into the hotel or motel business? According to Vilpesh Patel, who was the the owner of the 85-room Flamingo Inn in Windsor, CT at the time, ”Technically, it’s easy to run. You don’t need fluent English, just the will to work long hours,” he said. ”And it’s a business that comes with a house — you don’t have to buy a separate house.” (this is true – when I worked as an occupational therapist, I had several elderly patients – usually of Indian or other Asian descent – who lived with their adult children in the hotel they (the adult children) owned.
  • Not surprisingly, white competitors, especially in the rural south, have sometimes put not-very-subtle “American-Owned” signs outside their hotels (I live in Florida – can you believe they’re still around, here and there?). ”It doesn’t get us down,” said hotel owner Mike Patel. ”If we survived Idi Amin, a couple of redneck motel owners aren’t going to bother us much. In any case, our motels are American-owned, too. We’re Patels, and Americans.”

The video mentioned HHM Hospitality. You can look at their website yourself if you wish, but what impressed me was the diversity of their leadership. The President & CEO, Naveen Kakarla, is, of course, Indian-American. But the rest of the team appears to include a team whose appearance and last names on par with the United Nations. Just as our Great American Melting Pot is supposed to be.

Frankly, I find the history of how so many Patels run hotels and motels charming. It’s a prime example of the American dream and I just love that!

*** Feature photo: Desert Hill Motel, Tulsa OK, owned by Jack Patel. PC: Nicholas Henderson/flickr

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

10 comments

DaninMCI February 12, 2020 - 3:46 pm

One of the issues that Indian-America hotel owners have had over the years is they will buy hotels or motels that need work because they are trying to get into the business cheap. That results in the family living in the hotel and being cheap on towels and other items. Then there can be culture differences with cleaning, amenities, service, etc. Cooking on hot plates in the lobby, etc. They gives Indian run hotels a bad image overall. That is the reason many hotels put “American Owned” outside not so much because it’s racist but it’s a cultural divide or perception of that. I’ve stayed in awesome hotels run by India-Americans and flea bag motels run by Redneck-Americans and the ownership standards matter, not the race so much.

Reply
SharonKurheg February 12, 2020 - 8:31 pm

Not sure where you live but here in the south, “American Owned” is indeed because some good ol’ boys don’t think that anyone besides people who look like them, speak their language and go to their churches should run businesses, especially not ones that are in competition with them. They also want to ensure that people who are “like them” go to their establishments and not those of “those foreigners.” Pretty horrific, isn’t it?

As for how some Indian-Americans decide to live their lives, that is definitely not your or my business.

But you’re right; the heritage of whoever is running any establishment has nothing to do with the quality of said establishment.

Reply
askmrlee (@askmrlee) February 15, 2020 - 7:22 pm

So do the “good ol’ boys” consider Bobby Jindal a furiner, I mean foreigner?

Reply
Richard Garrido February 12, 2020 - 4:01 pm

My British-Indian brother in law used to tease me about my hotels, motels and Patels blog.

Reply
SharonKurheg February 12, 2020 - 8:38 pm

Link? Pretty please? 🙂

Reply
Christian February 12, 2020 - 9:03 pm

Loyalty Traveler at BoardingArea.com

Reply
SharonKurheg February 12, 2020 - 9:08 pm

I know that, silly 😉 I meant that particular blog/post

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Christian February 12, 2020 - 5:44 pm

I simply love the Idi Amin comment. I’m quite surprised about the “American Owned” signs. I guess things change pretty slowly in some places and my parents had some interesting stories about central Florida in the 40’s and 50’s.

Reply
SharonKurheg February 12, 2020 - 8:36 pm

Unfortunately, racism is still alive and well. I know exactly where on 192 this place is…I passed by it, almost daily, for years (specifically look at the pic of the hotel sign).
http://www.hotel-dot.com/united-states/orlando-fl/golden-link-motel-kissimmee-photos-paypal

In searching for that one, I also found this one, from Texas.
https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Faff.bstatic.com%2Fimages%2Fhotel%2Fmax500%2F267%2F26725402.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.motelplanet.com%2Fusa%2Fsnyder-tx-motels.html&tbnid=pF0DTbleyoDVzM&vet=12ahUKEwiE0sbQrs3nAhUR3VMKHcKXCJIQMygpegQIARBW..i&docid=pVReqMlNX8VsdM&w=500&h=332&q=hotel%20%22American%20owned%22%20kissimmee&client=firefox-b-1-d&ved=2ahUKEwiE0sbQrs3nAhUR3VMKHcKXCJIQMygpegQIARBWd&ved=2ahUKEwiE0sbQrs3nAhUR3VMKHcKXCJIQMygpegQIARBW

Not surprisingly,

Reply
Malik Patel February 16, 2020 - 11:00 am

I travel almost every week and some time stay in more than one hotel per week just like last week. I can pretty much figure out which hotels are run by Gujarati Indians. Cleanliness, service, fortified front desk, all give it out.

However, unlike ten, twenty years ago, now some of these Indian run hotels are improving in quality. So I have stopped avoiding them.

Reply

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