In Conversation with Harshil Patel
Champion Hotel’s Harshil Patel talks to us about doing business with honesty, integrity and family
When canvasing interesting hoteliers and hospitality figures for who they look up to in the industry, especially within the Asian American Hotel Owners community, one name that stood out to me was Harshil Patel, Vice President at Champion Hotels. His family migrated from Zambia to the US in 1982. The Patel family began their motel ownership journey by borrowing money from family and friends to purchase their first motel in Blythe, California. The Patel family then moved on to Weatherford, Oklahoma and bought a motel which is where Harshil was born in 1982. He recalls his parents and other family members working 12-14 hour shifts a day. The family lived in the motel they operated like many South Asian American families do when they start out.
His father, Champ Patel, founded the company which formalized in 1990. He brought his extended family members together as investors and grew from one mom and pop motel to building a successful hospitality company with a portfolio of 180 hotels across US within the past 38 years.
So naturally, I wanted to know, according to him, what’s the secret behind their success. Harshil shares with us that it all boils down to relationships and staying humble. His father, Champ Patel, CEO of the company is approachable to anyone in the company, including the hotel staff at the property. According to him, the key to their success has been about doing business with honesty, integrity and trust; that should be earned by building relationship with not only partners, but also investors, employees and other leading hotel brands. We caught up with this young hotelier and asked him on his thoughts on hospitality design, working with family and much more.
hospitality something you always wanted to do?
No, I actually wanted to do retail development. I managed two shopping centers that our family owned as well as handled the tenant build outs on the spaces and realized that the return for your time was much better in hotels. Also, it always felt like something was missing. I realized that you meet a lot more people in the hotels and learned about so many different cultures. The diversity and interactions made me want to get more involved on the hotel side of the business.
Where do you think the hotel design is headed?
Hotels design is becoming a much more influential factor in what brings people to your hotels. Even though consistency is key, travelers are wanting to see new and fresh designs when they travel, and they are also wanting to have new experiences in different locations.
Who have you been most influenced by in Hospitality and Design?
My father has influenced me the most when looking at hospitality and design.He has always pushed to have vibrant contrasting colors on the exteriors and interiors of the hotels. He realized very early in his career that you have to have eye catching exteriors to draw customers in.He found design to be key in getting customers in the door paired with providing the best service you could.
Where do you think the industry is headed?
I think the industry is headed towards creating more unique experiences for guests. With the growth of social media apps like Instagram people are documenting their lives in a completely new way and crave new and innovative experiences more than ever before.
Who are you admiring in the industry and why?
I admire everyone that were first generation in the hotel business.Most of them came here to the US with almost nothing and had to work very hard to make it. They had to overcome cultural barriers, language barriers, and all sorts of other obstacles to make it in the US. They faced adversity that all of us in the second generation couldn’t even imagine. They worked hard to give the second-generation opportunities that they never had themselves.
Who or what is your biggest source of inspiration int he industry today?
My father, mother, and family are my biggest source of inspiration today. As I said above, they were all immigrants who came to the US in search for a better future for their families. They moved here and struggled to live the American Dream. They succeeded in doing that, but also stayed very close and kept a family bond that is unbreakable. It’s a rare thing these days, in my opinion.
What will you be doing ten years from now?
In 10 years I hope that we are still growing as a company and learning throughout the way without sacrificing the family culture and bond that my parents and uncles have created within the organization.
What’s the next big thing in the hotel industry?
I believe that the next big thing in the hotel industry is technology personalization. A lot of the bigger brands are making very good progress in being able to control room settings such as TVs, lighting, thermostats, etc from your own phone or tablet.This is allowing for rooms to be personalized to the guest.
What’s been the most memorable journey you’ve been on?
Last year I was on our company team that built the first Tru by Hilton. I worked under my uncle who is the head of all of our construction. It was a journey to say the least. We were working with the brand team from Hilton on almost a daily basis since the brand was so new and things were changing so fast. I learned so much about construction and also how important relationships are in business and life as well. I will never forget it.
If you had the day off today, where would you be?
If I had the day off, I would be somewhere near the ocean with my parents, wife, and two sisters enjoying the day.