ATLANTA – In 2014, the Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality Administration at Georgia State University's Robinson College of Business introduced the Bharat Shah Leadership Speaker Series as a forum for leadership icons to share their personal journeys of struggle and perseverance in an intimate, living room style conversation.
The Shah Family, led by Mit Shah, CEO of Noble Investment Group, endowed the Bharat Shah Leadership Speaker Series in honor of Mit Shah's father, Dr. Bharat Shah, a well-known leader and philanthropist. In the years since, the annual event has inspired thousands of Georgia State students, as well as members of the hospitality and business communities with insights from industry giants, entrepreneurs, and legendary athletes.
In March, Geoff Ballotti, president and CEO of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, joined Mit Shah onstage as the featured guest for the ninth Bharat Shah Leadership Speaker Series event, which was the closing event at the 2023 Hunter Hotel Investment Conference.
Ballotti, who began his career as a dishwasher and now leads the world's largest hotel franchising company, said it is important "to advocate for those who may not be in the room but should be."
For Ballotti, advocacy includes expanding hotel ownership opportunities for underrepresented populations through programs like Wyndham's Women Own the Room and BOLD (Black Owners and Lodging Developers).
"Meeting so many students throughout the Hunter Hotel Conference and during this event has been an honor," Ballotti said. "We've already been in touch with and are interviewing some of the students here who have impressed us with their potential for career opportunities. The talent we're seeing enter the market makes us even more optimistic for the future of hospitality."
"The Bharat Shah Leadership Speaker Series provides our students and Hunter Hotel Conference attendees access to visionary leaders with great character who live lives that matter," said Mit Shah. "Geoff Ballotti's successful journey is an inspiration to our industry and, most significantly, our students."
In the audience was Deen Day Sanders, wife of the late Days Inn Founder, Cecil B. Day, for whom Georgia State’s School of Hospitality Administration is named. Both Shah and Ballotti recognized the Days for expanding the hospitality industry by pioneering economy lodging for travelers, founding the industry's first loyalty program, providing employment opportunities for differently-abled people, and for their philanthropy.
More than 2,000 hotel owners, franchisees/franchisors, management companies, designers, students, and international hospitality leaders attended the 34th Hunter Hotel Investment Conference at Atlanta's Marriott Marquis. Throughout the three-day conference, participants networked and attended receptions, keynote speeches, and discussion panels centered around business strategy and leadership topics. The conference was founded in 1989 by Bob Hunter of Hunter Hotel Advisors and Georgia State's Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality Administration.
Photo: Mit Shah (L) and Geoff Ballotti (R) at the 2023 Bharat Shah Leadership Speaker Series
|Over the Years: The Bharat Shah Leadership Series|
|2023||Geoff Ballotti, president and CEO, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts|
Sara Blakely, founder and CEO, SPANX
Jesse Itzler, co-owner, Atlanta Hawks, and founder, 100 Mile Group
Vince Carter, ESPN basketball analyst and eight-time NBA All-Star
Grant Hill, vice chair, Atlanta Hawks, and Naismith Hall of Fame inductee
|2019||Chris Nassetta, president and CEO, Hilton Worldwide|
|2018||Arne Sorenson, president and CEO, Marriott International|
|2017||Thomas J. Baltimore Jr., chairman, president, and CEO, Park Hotels & Resorts|
|2016||Mark Hoplamazian, president and CEO, Hyatt Hotels|
|2015||Mark Elliott, president, Hodges Ward Elliott|
|2014||Dr. Bharat Shah, philanthropist|