“There has been possibly no bigger obstacle, but also no better opportunity to learn and sharpen your skillset as an event executive,” said Akshar Patel, vice president of conventions for the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, speaking about the pandemic.
The business events industry has numerous groundbreaking leaders — trailblazers who represent diverse sectors of the community and make meaningful contributions to advance inclusion and equity within their organizations. PCMA’s Groundbreaker Award, now in its second year, is dedicated to highlighting these individuals. Akshar Patel, vice president of conventions for the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), was among those nominated for the 2022 PCMA Groundbreaker Award, and with good reason — he has helped successfully lead his organization through one of the most difficult periods the events industry has faced — the COVID-19 pandemic.
Patel has been with AAHOA — the largest hotel owners association in the nation with nearly 20,000 members — for more than six years. Since early 2020, on the precipice of COVID becoming a pandemic, Patel was named vice president of conventions for the Atlanta, Georgia–based association. Like so many other business professionals, navigating COVID-19 has been the greatest challenge he has faced in his career so far, Patel said.
“There has been possibly no bigger obstacle, but also no better opportunity to learn and sharpen your skillset as an event executive,” Patel said. When AAHOA was forced to reschedule its 2021 annual convention no less than five times within the calendar year, “every day presented itself with new challenges, whether it be COVID-related, financial challenges, or contractual challenges,” Patel said, “but we were determined that the show must go on.”
Patel dealt with a fear of failure during this period, he said, “but coming together with clear communication, trust, and partnerships helped us weather the storm.” The AAHOA 2021 Convention & Trade Show was ultimately held successfully in-person in Dallas in early August with 6,272 attendees.