Dating back to the 1940s, the first Gujarati motel owner, Kanjibhai Desai, who came to the U.S. via Mexico, was based in San Francisco. He managed a “residential hotel,” which is the present-day equivalent of a youth hostel. People who stayed there were generally down and out.
Other Gujaratis who came to the U.S. in the 40s and 50s were typically farmers back in India, and even if they didn’t own land, they didn’t want to work for someone else. ...
There was also the financial angle—if a new Gujarati immigrant wanted to open up a florist, for instance, his relatives wouldn’t know anything about it but if he wanted to open up a motel, he would have access to experienced investors and advice.
Also, many brought in additional relatives to work – unlike other small businesses, motels allow people to live for free so they’re saving money as they work. And after spending 5 years in the motel industry, it was only natural those relatives would go on to manage franchises of their own.
--Pawan Dhingra, author of Life Behind the Lobby: Indian American Motel Owners and the American Dream, on the Korean dry cleaners of the hospitality business