Sima Patel speaking
Back TO TRAVEL HUB

Pioneering Bay Area hotelier breaks barriers

By Laurie Haynes | 5 min

Self-made CEO and Indian immigrant Sima Patel has experienced a lifetime of groundbreaking milestones, and illustrates how tourism employment can lead to a rewarding, lifelong career. The self-made CEO of Ridgemont Hospitality built her own business and has more than 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry. Since she was a teenager, Patel has built an inspirational career that includes business success and service to the industry.


A dreamer learns English
Growing up in a conservative household in Surat, Patel dreamed of attending English-speaking school. Less than a year after being allowed to enroll, at age 16, Patel moved across the ocean to join her husband, Pravin, in Oakland, where Patel began working in a family-owned hotel.

 

Despite having less than a year of English education and no other formal training or hospitality experience, Patel was driven by an entrepreneurial spirit and a curious nature. She quickly took to the business, helping in the hotel office and learning the ins-and-outs of running a hotel. She and Pravin were soon managing a second family property.

Simi Patel’s firsts

2004 - First Indian woman to chair a national or state lodging association in the United States, the California Lodging Industry Association.

2016 - Became first industry-elected chair of the nation’s biggest destination marketing organization, Visit California.

Building success
It was in 1985 when Patel sowed the seeds of what would become her own hospitality enterprise. With help from her family, she and Pravin acquired the land on which they would build their first hotel, The Regency Inn. It became the first jewel in the crown of their new company, Ridgemont Hospitality.

 

Today, the family-owned and -operated company runs Oakland’s Inn at Temescal, Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn & Suites, Hotel Vue in Mountain View, and a 110-room Hampton Inn in the heart of downtown Oakland, which was the first new hotel in downtown Oakland in years.

“Hers is the quintessential American success story and proves the tourism industry supports jobs and builds leaders.”
Caroline Beteta Visit California President & CEO

Commitment to community
Throughout her career Patel has remained an inspiring leader whose commitment to her community is unwavering. She is a former chair of  Visit Oakland and currently serves as a director on their executive committee and board. She has served as former chair of the Independent Lodging Industry Association and is an active member of the Oakland Rotary Club and the Oakland Airport Area Business Association.

 

Her relationships with leaders of the industry and those in local, county and state governments allowed for her instrumental role in not only securing critical funding for Visit Oakland, but also in gaining approval for an Oakland Tourism Business Improve District by the Oakland City Council. She also remains a leader within the Indian-American community, and in addition to her work in the hotel industry, Patel founded SAAHELI, a global online community for South Asian women.

“Hers is the quintessential American success story and proves the tourism industry supports jobs and builds leaders.”
Caroline Beteta Visit California President & CEO