California businessman and philanthropist Bharat Patel has earned the highest honors in the second annual Procter & Gamble (P&G) Professional "Family Hotelier of the Year" award competition, given in conjunction with the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA). Patel was selected as a regional finalist and then, in the first year that the public was invited to have a say in the grand prize winner selection, received the greatest number of online votes.

P&G Professional partnered with AAHOA, which represents more than 10,000 members owning more than 20,000 hotels that total $128 billion in property value, to create the Family Hotelier of the Year award to celebrate the values central to a successful family business. The grand prize includes a three-day, two-night trip for four to the convention, a plaque and $5,000 in prize money.

"These hoteliers bring a passion and drive to their businesses that is clearly outstanding," says Alan Tomblin, Sales Manager of North America, P&G Professional. "But that is not all that contributes to their success. They bring that same dedication to their families and communities and that is what makes the difference. As a company dedicated to helping businesses succeed, we applaud Bharat Patel and all of the award finalists for their achievements."

Grand prize winner Patel is a resident of El Monte, Calif., and Director of Operations at his family's hotel, America's Best Value Inn & Suites. He is active in his community, serving as chairman of the City Planning Commission, as a volunteer police reserve member, and as a Kiwanis Club member for more than 10 years. He remains committed to helping those less fortunate, delivering turkey baskets to needy families each year at Thanksgiving. In addition, he is a co-founder of the El Monte Helping Hands Program, begun in January 2006, where hoteliers donate two room nights per month to families in need of lodging. To date, the program has donated more than 250 room nights valued at nearly $21,000.

"I believe that business success demands a greater, unconditional responsibility to the community," says Patel. "It is a privilege to work here in America. The American dream is a reality. Anyone who works hard can succeed. But success comes with a responsibility, to help others less fortunate."

As a businessman, Patel has a reputation for treating his employees like family. When one of his staff members passed away, he organized monetary donations, food, medical contacts and emotional support for the family.

"My philosophy is simple," notes Patel. "I believe when employees are treated with dignity, they will give more than 100 percent in service. As a result, guests are treated exceptionally, just as if they are a member of the family."

Patel will be recognized on stage during the conference's general morning session on Friday, June 18. All regional finalists of the award are association members in good standing who were nominated by themselves, family, colleagues or members of their communities. Each finalist was then selected by a team of P&G Professional and association members based on the nominee's family involvement, outstanding business and community service, and the creativity and sincerity of the nomination.