If you have not yet heard of Lynette Montoya or the Latino Hotel Association (LHA), you soon will. As the CEO and president of the association, Montoya has been busy forwarding one overriding message to the Latino community. It’s an intersecting message of entrepreneurship and empowerment, but above all, it’s about one word: possibility. Montoya—and the LHA—want Latinos to know that it’s possible for them to own a hotel of their own.
Montoya was asked to run the LHA in 2015, but she says her journey began when she first found a job in the real estate industry. At the time, Montoya explains, she was recently divorced and was trying to support her family as a single mother by selling homes in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
One day, two potential high-end buyers came to Montoya about their real estate needs. Montoya spent days showing them various properties, but she couldn’t close on a sale.
Then Montoya remembered something—these two individuals owned a hotel management company. She headed to their office with a completely different proposal in mind—one that would change the course of her career. “Since I was not able to sell you a house,” she asked them, “how about I sell you a hotel?”
Montoya eventually found the perfect property (the St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio, Texas) and closed the sale. Afterward, a new friend—Dorraine Lallani, who worked in hospitality—recommended that she attend a hotel investment conference to network and find more potential clients.
That was 1999, and Montoya remembers her first hotel conference as an overwhelming and intimidating experience. The attendees were primarily men, and very few were minorities. “Why aren’t there more Latinos in the room?” she remembers thinking. “I had to step outside of my box, introduce myself, and meet people.”
But Montoya’s networking skills and expertise carried her through. She met a number of clients through that conference and later helped market and sell various hotels in the Southwest. Since then, she has become an undisputed leader in the field.
Today, the CEO works hard to increase awareness about the Latino Hotel Association and to spread the word about hotel ownership through panels, educational resources, and annual conferences. She has also formed critical new partnerships with major organizations such as the American Hotel & Lodging Association and the Women in Hospitality Industry Leadership Alliance.
Montoya herself is a frequent attendee and panelist at national hospitality conferences. This year alone, she has spoken on the policy update panel at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference and the successful women in hospitality panel at LendingCon.
No matter where she is, or who she’s speaking to, Montoya emphasizes the need for more Latinos to get involved in the upper levels of the hospitality industry. She often starts conversations by asking, “How can we at the LHA make an impact where we affect the entire industry?”
The most important event of the year for the LHA is the annual conference. This year, it will take place in Dallas on October 12 and 13. According to the CEO, there will be executive round tables and panels on a variety of key topics (including the financing of a hotel). Representatives from major hotel brands will also be in attendance and ready to share their expertise.
The conference is designed for anyone interested in hotel ownership, but Montoya is particularly keen on increasing the number of Latino attendees.
“I want the LHA to be recognized as a [space for] opportunity,” Montoya says. “I do this for my boys and for my granddaughters. I want them to know that they can make anything happen in their lives, that the road does not have to be just one direction. And I want other people to feel the excitement of what could happen.”
Interested in attending the 2022 LHA conference? Hispanic Executive readers are invited to use code HE2022 for an exclusive discounted price of $149.