As Hospitality Rebounds, Small-Scale Hotelier Sunil Wadhwani Finds Success

Although hotels are generally considered a sound investment, the past few years of disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic have added additional volatility to the industry. But with demand for overnight stays and holiday retreats roaring back and expected to exceed pre-pandemic levels by 2023, experts in real estate development are still recommending them to diversify portfolios. While several well-known billionaires have made their fortunes in hotels, even those with smaller portfolios and in lower-traffic markets can find economic success in the hospitality industry.

One such example is Sunil Wadhwani of McAllen, Texas. After trying his hand at several other entrepreneurial ventures, Rio Grande Valley hotelier Wadhwani has found long-term success as a hotel franchisee. After starting with his first 65-room inn, a La Quinta, in 2000, Wadhwani has expanded and diversified his portfolio to include the Motel 6 and Marriott brands. He now owns eight properties, with a ninth in development, and generates more than $8.5 million in sales annually.

Sunil Wadhwani has become a shrewd businessman, making all decisions on management, operations, finances, and employees in his more than two decades in business. He employs more than 120 people and manages interactions with more than 100 vendors. On a daily basis, he visits nearly every single one of his properties to meet with his General Managers and spends time at his corporate office to ensure that all financial obligations are being met.

With additional goals to expand his current inventory of nearly 1,000 rooms, Sunil Wadhwani shows no signs of slowing down. By prioritizing management training and property upkeep, he has earned various recognitions and awards both internally and externally at many of his properties. He has been voted Franchise of the Year multiple times for both La Quinta and Motel 6, maintains stellar online reviews, and is recognized for excellence on sites like TripAdvisor.

Now nearing 60, Wadhwani continues to set the bar high for himself and his team. He is motivated to achieve even more before he retires, and is reaping the rewards of his focus and determination. After striving to become a part of the Marriott family for years, he was thrilled to join in partnership with the brand in 2020, when he opened the TownePlace Suites San Antonio Northwest at The RIM. The 109-suite extended stay hotel tested Wadhwani in new ways, as his first venture with Marriott, his first property outside of the Rio Grande Valley, and the first project that he does not have daily access to.

In addition to his hotel holdings, Sunil Wadhwani also owns and manages five rental buildings, three townhomes, and several undeveloped properties throughout the Valley. 

While Wadhwani has found tremendous success in South Texas, it has not been without its share of hard work and occasional setbacks. He is actively involved with each property on a daily basis, as well as all professional services required by his properties, including lawyers, bankers, accountants, insurance brokers, payroll services, and subcontractors. He keeps a steady eye on the future, what it may hold, and how he can best prepare his staff and his properties.

During his 20+ years in business, the South Texas market has gone through several transformations that Wadhwani has had to adapt to, including changes in the flow of Mexican travelers across the border, overbuilding and oversaturation in the area, and the COVID pandemic and its detrimental effects on hospitality.

But as the child of immigrants who came to the United States in the 1960s with only $100 to their name, Wadhwani was raised with an incredible work ethic and drive to succeed. The story of his parents living out the American Dream as entrepreneurs in Brownsville, Texas has inspired him to set the same example for his own family. In addition to providing for his wife, four children, and three grandchildren, Wadhwani takes great pride and pleasure in helping his friends and associates to also succeed financially.

Although portfolio growth is still on his mind, Sunil Wadhwani does hope to one day step back from daily operations. With a competent, focused, and well-trained management staff in place, he believes he will be able to enjoy retirement eventually.

After a very different start to his career, Wadhwani has hit his stride with hospitality. As he looks to the future and the changes occurring in the industry, he can expect to be addressing trends such as contactless check-in, increased remote workspaces, further personalization for loyalty program members, eco-friendly and sustainable business practices, pet-friendly accommodations, and multi-functional spaces. As a master of adaptation, he will likely meet the challenges head-on.

For those looking to get started as a hotel franchisee, Sunil Wadhwani recommends starting at the bottom and working your way up, to better learn the ins-and-outs of the industry. He also suggests listening and learning before speaking and accumulating as much hands-on experience as possible.

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