- Emily Goldfischer
Loving the Climb: Lina Patel, Director, Strategic Franchise Initiatives at Red Roof
An avid hiker and trekker, Lina Patel keeps reaching new heights in her hospitality career as well! A second-generation hotelier, Lina's first job was cleaning bathrooms in a small independent hotel owned by her aunt and uncle in Tennessee. After graduating college and a few years consulting with Lexis Nexis, Lina returned to the hotel business in 2000 and over the last 20 + years, has owned and invested in hotel properties and been very active in AAHOA. Passionate about advancing women in hotel ownership by providing networking and educational opportunities, Lina was a driving force and helped launch the AAHOA’s HerOwnership program in 2022. In her latest role, Lina is the Director of Franchise Initiatives at Red Roof, where she is excited to help educate minorities and women on the ins and outs of hotel ownership and to see diversity soar. We chat with Lina about her goals for Red Roof and much more...
Where were you born and when did you move to the US, and what was your entree into hospitality?
Born and raised in India, I immigrated to the United States in the early 80s with my parents. I started in the hotel business cleaning bathrooms at my aunt and uncle’s independent hotel in Murfreesboro, TN called the Imperial Inn. I grew into working various jobs beyond cleaning and doing laundry to working front desk shifts, and even mowing the lawn. I remember coming home after school and immediately racing to the hotel lobby to begin my shift.
Once I graduated from Wright State University in Ohio with a degree in Management Information Systems, I started working with Lexis-Nexis, the online database company, to gain corporate experience. Ultimately, I returned to my passion and roots, rejoined the hotel industry, and started investing in multiple franchises across the Eastern United States.
You have been very involved in AAHOA and you helped launch the HerOwnership program in 2022, which we were happy to see! What motivated you to create a special program for women at AAHOA?
Since its inception, 34 years ago, AAHOA has always provided a platform to network, learn and become successful hotel owners. Over the six years that I served on AAHOA’s board representing women hoteliers on the platform, we created over 60 educational and networking platforms for women hoteliers. The programming has always been successful, the missing piece was the branding, HerOwnership. HerOwnership was branded and launched in Cincinnati OH, with 300 women in 2022 with a goal to open doors for women in hotel ownership. In April, my AAHOA board term ended. I am still active in the organization. AAHOA is the backbone of the industry for Asian owners, so to continue to help elevate the partnership between Red Roof and AAHOA is what I am most looking forward to now.
Now you have joined the franchise team at Red Roof, what most excites you about your new role?
I have been a Red Roof owner for 20 years. Red Roof was one of the first brands to host conferences geared towards women—starting in 2016, in New Orleans. I was impressed and amazed by Red Roof for being one of the first brands to acknowledge women in ownership and women's leadership. Now, as part of the Franchise team, our goal is to ensure the program offers partnerships, events, and informative platforms that are driving effective efforts and position Red Roof as the franchise partner of choice for diverse and unrepresented owners. Women and minorities face barriers, particularly in lending. We want to partner with lenders who understand these challenges and can customize the loan packages to their needs.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in the industry and how did you overcome them?
Being a woman hotelier since 2000, initially, I saw barriers to having a networking platform in an industry that was male-dominated. I believe we learn the most when networking with peers, but now, with more opportunities for women to connect and learn, it’s much easier. However, women and minorities continue to face barriers, particularly in lending. Lending has such a gender bias. The lending industry is not there yet in recognizing the potential of women.
In interviewing other women in hotel ownership, we have heard that financing remains a huge challenge, so it is great to hear Red Roof is partnering with lenders. What other areas are you working on?
Another area requiring attention is understanding the steps required for hotel ownership, from finding the hotel that fits their budget and demographics to the franchising process to education and training in operating a hotel. I am looking forward to creating events in partnership with Red Roof’s educational team that will facilitate networking and education for current franchisees and establish an inclusive, supportive community. We plan to have strong representation of Red Roof Franchise’s diversity program at industry and partner events.
Switching gears, you are very involved in your Hindu culture and heritage through volunteer and other activities, why is this so important to you and what activities are you most involved in now?
For over a decade, I served on the Executive Board of Leuva Patidar Samaj of USA (LPS of USA), a community organization representing Leuva Women, Youth, and Senior citizens. In fact, I was the first woman ever selected to serve on this cultural organization created by the same forefathers who created AAHOA. It is important for me to continue the connection with our cultural organization in the hope of embedding these values in my son as well as future generations.
May is AAPI Month, what does this mean to you?
Culture and community are so important to me and many of us. Having this month and a spotlight on AAPI and our culture is really meaningful. But honestly, we celebrate our culture every day not just in May!
What advice do you have for women starting their careers in hospitality?
Connect, network, and learn. The opportunities are all around you.
Before we get to the Quickfire, can you tell us more about your passion for trekking?
Growing up, I always had a passion for the mountains, particularly the Himalayas. My experience in mountaineering comes from the past 22 years of hiking throughout the USA. Since 2008, I have traveled throughout Nepal, trekking to the base camp of Mt. Everest and climbing throughout the Khumbu valley. I have also successfully led many groups––over 1000 travelers––on a hike in the Tibet side of the Himalayas aka "the Roof of the World," scaling up to 20,000 feet in elevation.
Quickfire with Lina!
What is your morning routine?
I’m not a morning person. However, once I am awake, I dive right into work with a hot cup of Chai made with ginger, lemongrass, and mint!
What do you do for self-care?
What is your best travel hack?
What is the best advice you ever got?
The answers are within you.
What is the worst advice you ever took?
This is a difficult question. I think all advice is good advice when used at the right time.
What TV shows and podcasts are you into right now?
TV - Yellowstone
Podcast – DEI Advisors