Chattanooga-based hotel chain plans new wave of investment


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Over the past 25 years, Mitch Patel has built one of the nation’s fastest growing family-run hotel chains with more than 40 hotels open across the country, including 18 properties in Hamilton and Bradley.

As the travel industry recovers from the pandemic, Patel is preparing to open 15 more hotels over the next three years, many larger than those in Patel’s current Vision Hospitality Group portfolio.

“Growing this company from its humble roots here in Chattanooga to nearly $1 billion in valuation and market capitalization has been a tremendous source of pride for us,” says Patel. “But we are just getting started. We have about half a billion dollars of investment taking place, probably over the next three years, including about $200 million of new development in the Chattanooga area.

While Patel has built many $10-15 million Hampton Inns and Holiday Inn & Suites properties over the past two decades, most new hotels will be larger, in prime locations and more expensive, a- he said, with several of them valued at over $50. million each.

It’s a dramatic turnaround from two years ago, when Vision Hospitality and other hotel chains temporarily lost most of their business as the COVID-19 pandemic hit and forced the layoff of more than 3 .1 million hospitality workers across the United States, including approximately 1,000 of Vision Hospitality Group’s 1,500 workers. During the pandemic, Vision Hospitality also sold six of its hotels for around $200 million in the company’s largest ever property sale.

But the hospitality industry is rebounding quickly, and in markets like Chattanooga it is already exceeding pre-pandemic volumes. Patel said Vision Hospitality had its best fourth quarter in company history in 2020 and expects to do even better this year.

“Even though we have a lot of new hotels in our pipeline, I truly believe demand is going to outstrip supply in our industry over the next five to seven years,” Patel said. “It gives me a lot of confidence that this is a very sustainable business and you should never bet against the American spirit.”

This spirit helped Patel’s father, Ish, come to the United States more than four decades ago when he began pursuing graduate studies in microbiology at the University of California-Davis. Ish Patel moved his family to an 11-room hotel in Stockton, Calif., while working as a research scientist at a local pickle factory. The family ran the motel for three years before Patel’s father decided to buy and run a larger motel, an 80-room Scottish Inn that was available nationwide in Cleveland, Tennessee.

As a young man, Mitch Patel helped out at the Cleveland motel by cleaning rooms, doing laundry, and taking out the trash when needed. It was enough to convince young Patel to want to leave the hospitality industry and pursue an engineering degree.

At the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Mitch Patel studied civil engineering, and after graduation he took a job in Atlanta as a project traffic engineer. It was a comfortable job, but Patel soon realized he wasn’t achieving his dreams.

So in 1997, Patel gave up his career and had the opportunity with his uncle to develop and manage a Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel near the Hamilton Place shopping center.

With $3,000 he had saved over the three years he worked as a traffic engineer, Patel borrowed most of what he needed and used his engineering skills to help build his first hotel. When it opened, he began to manage the property.

“A small hotel, but a very big dream,” Patel told nearly 300 friends, colleagues, industry leaders and others who gathered this spring to celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary.

There have been many economic and commercial challenges. Although his first hotel was a success, a second hotel near the Nashville airport opened during an economic crisis with a lot of competition, and did not do as well. The third hotel Patel opened was the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Chattanooga, just a month after the September 11, 2001, attacks that discouraged many Americans from flying.

“I was very nervous about opening our largest hotel and our first downtown hotel in a difficult time, but we eventually pulled it off and learned that even in the scariest of times, people people still want to travel and experience,” Patel said.


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