Motel industry Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Due to changing economic conditions in the United States and changes in immigration laws, immigrants from South Asia–particularly Indians–began to dominate the middle tier of the American motel industry during the last two decades of the twentieth century.

The path of South Asians to the United States has been a convoluted one. During the long era of the British Empire, the British sent many people from their Indian possession to other colonies in regions such as East Africa and the West Indies. In these places the transplanted Indians performed many types of labor, particularly in service industries. After Great Britain lost most of its colonies, most of the transplanted Indians remained in their new homes, continuing to work as tradespeople, civil servants, and clerks. However, during the late twentieth century, political instability in many of the former British colonies made it difficult for Asians to live and work safely. Some of these people relocated to Great Britain, but others came to the United States.Motel industryAsian Indian immigrants;in motel industry[motel industry]Motel industryAsian Indian immigrants;in motel industry[motel industry][cat]LABOR;Motel industry[03640][cat]SOUTH AND SOUTHWEST ASIAN IMMIGRANTS;Motel industry[03640][cat]ECONOMICISSUES;Motel industry[03640][cat]TRANSPORTATION;Motel industry[03640]

Around the same period that Indians were immigrating to the United States from other countries around the world, the American budget motel industry was becoming economically distressed. Immigrants often found that they could purchase a roadside motel for as little as forty thousand dollars. This was an amount that many Indian immigrants could afford. Moreover, the motel business was particularly well suited to Hindus, who accounted for the vast majority of Indian immigrants. Operating restaurants catering to American tastes would have been problematic, as Hindus are not allowed by their religion to handle meat. Grocery stores required large investments, and many other businesses required licensing or special training. Consequently, the budget motel industry seemed almost ideal for Indian immigrants. Motel managers could live at their places of business, thereby minimizing their personal housing costs. The language barrier was not overly difficult for Indians to surmount. Indeed, most motel managers have reported that the most important criterion for business success was a willingness to work long hours.

The depth of Asian Indian involvement in the American accommodations industry can be seen in the size of the Asian American Hotel Owners AssociationAsian American Hotel Owners Association, a professional organization whose members operated more than twenty thousand motels and hotels across the United States in the year 2009. These twenty thousand establishments represented than 50 percent of all middle-tier public lodging in the country, and association members also owned or managed 40 percent of all American hotel properties, including upscale hotels. These numbers represent a remarkable entrepreneurial achievement by members of the Indian American population, who collectively account for fewer than 1 percent of the total U.S. population. Equally remarkable is the fact that Indian Americans reached this level of involvement in fewer than three decades.Motel industryAsian Indian immigrants;in motel industry[motel industry]

Further Reading
  • Asian American Hotel Owners Association Annual Report. Atlanta, Ga.: AAHOA, 2008.
  • Duttagupta, Ishani. “March of the Indian Entrepreneurs.” The Economic Times (Mumbai, India), February 6, 2009.
  • Helweg, Arthur W. Strangers in a Not-So-Strange Land: Indian American Immigrants in the Global Age. Florence, Ky.: Wadsworth, 2004.

Asian immigrants

Asian Indian immigrants

Association of Indians in America

Congress, U.S.

Economic opportunities


History of immigration after 1891

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