Originally created 11/29/97

Indian hotel owners praised



Aiken's Indian hotel owners won praise for their generosity during a reception recently at the University of South Carolina at Aiken.

About two dozen members of the Aiken chapter of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association met in the university's antebellum administration building to drink a toast to the School of Business Administration and Economics. In early November, chapter members contributed a total of $19,000 to the business school's scholarship fund.

"You each in your own story have taken on more risks that I could ever imagine," said Robert Alexander, university chancellor. Their commercial accomplishments contributed to the Aiken area as much as their financial donation will enhance the school, he added.

Many of the chapter members have attended classes at USC-Aiken, said J.K Patel, president of North Point Hospitality, which owns three hotels in Aiken. As past president of the 4,000-member national Asian hotel association, he challenged other chapters to make a similar contribution, particularly the Augusta chapter.

Owners from India control half of all hotels in the United States, representing $30 billion in assets, he said.

"All of us have done very well in this city, and I think it is wise for us to give something back," said Ramesh Shah, president of Holiday Inn Express on Whiskey Road.

Indians succeeded in the hospitality industry by originally buying independent hotels that were folding under the pressure of discount motel chains, according to Niren Vyas, a native of India who is head of the business school. Indian immigrants cut overhead by living on-site and employing family members instead of paid staff, he said.

Indians in this country also rely on each other for advice and financial backing, said Mr. Patel. That willingness to help each other succeed is the basis for the contribution to the business school scholarship fund, he said.