Jay Lallu has a unique path to the hospitality business. He was born and raised in Colon, Panama. Jay could not continue his college education as his father had fallen sick. To provide for his family, he started to work at a retail store in Colon. This opened the doors for him to begin working in wholesale importing and exporting for a few months. The experience of doing time in retail and wholesaling allowed him to open a retail store of his own where he sold cosmetics, perfumes, and other gift items.
Jay saw a new opportunity in traveling to clients in Guatemala, Ecuador, and Colombia to become a wholesaler for factories in India, Hong Kong, and Bangkok. Jayesh’s other business ventures included Indian groceries and getting Indian movies in theaters in Panama before he finally decided it was time to move his family to the United States.
Jay, his wife Rina, daughter Hershila, and mother Savitaben landed at a 124 room Best Western in Athens, Texas. With little experience, he worked as the General Manager, while his wife was the Head Housekeeper. After doing his time in Athens, Jayesh and his family moved to Shreveport, Louisiana to operate a Howard Johnson. His many years of service at these two businesses, he was finally able to purchase and operate his first property, Days Inn in Fordyce, Arkansas.
He was not to be intimidated by being a new small business owner in a new town. He immediately became involved in various organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club, in Fordyce. After much success with his first property, Jay purchased a second Days Inn in Cabot, 15 miles north of Little Rock.
After spending many years moving in attempts to provide for his family, Jay and his family reside in Cabot, Arkansas, where he enjoys watching movies, spending quality time with family, following politics, and giving back to his local community.
More than 1,700 hotels in the U.S. closed in spring 2020 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. At the end of August, 1,200 were closed, reported Kalibri Labs. Meantime, 840 new hotels opened last year and 900 are on track to open this year, according to Lodging Econometrics. Episode 337 of Lodging Leaders explores the challenges owners faced in reopening closed hotels as well as what owners and operators did to ramp up business at hotels that were at such low levels of occupancy, they might as well have been closed. We also feature owners who opened new properties during the pandemic. One owner we interviewed opened two new hotels while doing what it took to keep his existing properties in business. This report is part of our ongoing coverage of the coronavirus crisis and its impact on the hospitality industry.
As America approaches the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on its homeland, Lodging Leaders explores the impact 9/11 had on the U.S. travel sector. We feature hotel industry leaders who were on duty that fateful day and can recall the shock of the attacks, how they cared for frightened guests and how the event changed hotel operations. They also draw parallels to the coronavirus crisis and remind listeners of the resiliency of the nation’s hospitality industry.