With 17 hotels in the pipeline, Vision Hospitality Group has established itself as a key player in the Southeast region of the United States.
CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee—Mitch Patel had his first experience with the hotel industry when he was just 8* years old. His father lease-purchased an 11-room motel in Stockton, California, in 1978 after coming to the United States from India with only $8 in his pocket.
In 1980, his father moved the family across the country to Cleveland, Tennessee, where he purchased an 80-room Scottish Inn that he owned and managed for 24 years. Despite his father’s success, Patel said he had no interest in the hospitality industry.
That was until he had an opportunity in 1996 to develop a hotel—the Homewood Suites by Hilton at Hamilton Place in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
“Within 18 months, we were the No. 1 hotel in the market,” he said. “I had found my passion.”
Patel was the contractor, owner and general manager of the 76-room hotel, and the second-floor board room of that hotel is where in 1999 he began Vision Hospitality Group, a family-owned hotel development and management company.
Nearly 15 years later, Vision has 22 hotels in its portfolio and 17 hotels in the pipeline, nine of which are under construction, the president and CEO said.
“We’re looking to add another five to six hotels to that pipeline in the next 90 days,” Patel added. “Hotels not under construction will start in the next 12 months, and (we) hope to open them in the next 12 months after.”
“We’re going to be at 30 hotels by the end of the year,” he added. “We’ll be at 35 to 36 by the end of 2014.”
With such an aggressive pipeline, Patel said he found himself running out of space for his 30 corporate employees, so recently Vision announced it would be developing a more spacious corporate office in the heart of downtown Chattanooga within walking distance from three of four company-owned properties in the market.
The company will use the top two floors of the four-story mixed-use property for its headquarters, Patel said. It will lease the second floor office space to an outside company and lease the ground floor to retail shops or restaurants.
Even though the company has laid some serious roots in the Southeast, Patel said he will pursue opportunities in the top 15 markets.
“Our vision on the portfolio side is definitely to pursue great opportunities,” he said. “Don’t put a number on what you want to be. I’d rather have 10 hotels that I’m proud of than 50 hotels that are mediocre.”
The company has a busy summer ahead with the opening of three new hotels:
- the 112-room Residence Inn Atlanta NE/Gwinnett/Sugarloaf in Duluth, Georgia;
- the 89-room Hampton Inn & Suites Schererville, Indiana; and
- the 90-room Fairfield Inn & Suites Knoxville West in Knoxville, Tennessee
“All our hotels (in the pipeline) are primarily with Hilton and Marriott in the select-service sweet spot,” Patel said. “We have a model, and we want to execute that model. The premium brands are most important to us.”
The two markets Vision is primarily focused on for the remainder of the year are Nashville, Tennessee, and Atlanta. Patel said the company has two hotels under construction in Nashville and plans to develop three more in the market.
Patel said he plans to develop several more hotels in Atlanta, including the Homewood Suites by Hilton Atlanta Perimeter, which recently broke ground and is expected to open in summer 2014.
“Atlanta is a market that no question took a beating during the downturn, but you’ve got to find your pockets,” he said. “There’s very little supply growth in Atlanta. Demand is now growing, and so is rate.”
The company also broke ground on the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Nashville Downtown @ the Gulch and the Courtyard by Marriott Houston Northwest, which are expected to open in spring and summer 2014, respectively. The Courtyard property is a joint venture with Houston-based Unity Lodging Group.
It’s all in the family
It was Patel’s humble beginnings that paved the way for Vision’s philosophy, he said, and his vision is to be the “best and most respected hotel company in the world.”
“If you surround yourself with great people, the second thing you do is take care of them,” Patel said. “And they in turn take care of your guests. Our values have guided us, and our culture has been strong.”
While Vision is both a development and management company, Patel said service comes first.
“One thing we have to continue to remind ourselves is that it’s a service business first,” he said. “How we run our hotels is critical.”
In order to provide the best service possible, Patel said the company will continue to own and operate a majority of its portfolio.
“The best way to maintain the quality of our assets is for us to manage our own hotels,” he said. “We have vested interest in these hotels, and that’s just been our strategy.”
*Correction 28 June 2013: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that Patel was 4 years old.