Rakesh Sarna is an experienced hospitality professional based in Miami. His wealth of experience in the industry has led him to become an expert in managing hotel and restaurant properties. Sarna had a cosmopolitan upbringing since his father was a member of the Indian Foreign Service. He traveled frequently as a child, experiencing different cultures around the world firsthand. He attended high school in India and then went on to attend Algonquin University in Canada, where he majored in Hospitality Management. 

Rakesh Sarna has nearly 40 years’ experience in the hospitality field. Through the course of his work, he has come to value gender diversity in the workplace. He has also focused on keeping up with important industry and social trends. Technology has made an impact on the industry, and Rakesh Sarna is concerned with updating the business to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. 

What is your job title?

I’m currently working in an advisory capacity for a number of companies regarding their hotel expansion plans.

How long have you been in business?

I have been in the industry since I graduated from college almost 42 years ago. I have a strong background in hospitality, backed up with many decades of experience. 

Even though I have a long history in the field, I remain deeply concerned with new developments in the industry. Keeping the hospitality industry current increases the chance of competing with home-sharing websites like Airbnb. 

Are there any unique challenges in your industry?

Staying current is a huge challenge for the hospitality industry. People have come to expect that hotels and restaurants will do business in specific ways, and it is up to industry professionals to pay attention to market shifts and make changes. If companies are not agile, they will be left behind in today’s tech-savvy environment. 

Another problem facing the hospitality industry is the lack of qualified employees at lower levels. We are always hiring.  The industry needs to do more to train young people and chart a career path to encourage them to work in this field.

Do you have any particular issues that you personally address?

My personal mission is to support gender diversity in the workplace. I believe that there are not enough women employed at management levels in hospitality. This is especially true in the restaurant world, where there is a traditional culture of male chefs running the show. Women are equally capable of running a hospitality business, and there is no reason why the playing field can’t be leveled. 

Is your industry growing, shrinking, or staying the same?

The hospitality industry has flourished, benefiting from a solid economy. Travel industry bookings were almost $1.6 trillion in the year 2017. Hotel occupancy is rising to 66 percent, capping off several years of growth. Demand is growing, and the supply is growing as well. When the economy is good, people want to stretch their legs and travel. They are also more likely to be able to eat out. Businesses are able to pay for their employees to visit other locations. 

How does technology impact your industry?

Technology has come to the forefront of the hospitality industry. Consumers are used to booking accommodations on the computer or on their smartphones. Hotels need to make sure that their websites are accessible to mobile applications, or they will be left in the dust. 

Technology is making a big impact in other ways as well. I understand, some hotels have been experimenting with adding robotic services like bellhops. This will free up human staff members’ time and provides a fun and novel experience to guests. In-room technology has also experienced advances, with smart TVs, fast and free Wi-Fi, and all of the conveniences that guests expect in their own homes. 

Have you ever been to Miami?

I live in Miami with my wife. We are recent arrivals to the area, and we have loved getting to know the city and the surrounding towns. 

Do you visit any particular locations, including restaurants?

Miami is blessed with an incredible culinary scene and there are great restaurants all over the city. We’re spoiled for choice and it’s often difficult to pick just one to go to!

Where do you see yourself or your business in 5 years?

I hope to continue to work in an advisory role with hospitality businesses as well as share my knowledge and experience with students hoping to enter the industry.