Baywood Hotels just celebrated its 100th hotel opening, but that doesn’t mean company leaders are ready to slow down anytime soon.
by ALICIA HOISINGTON
Al Patel’s father purchased his first motel in 1975, and a family business was born. The 23-room property located in rural Maryland was more than just an introduction to the hotel industry for Patel. It became a way of life when the family moved into the motel when Patel was just 5 years old.
“The living room was the front desk,” he said. “That’s how I grew up, in several motels along the way.”
The business transformed in 1991 from a mom-and-pop operation to that of an acquisition engine when Patel’s father acquired 14 properties from various lenders during a recession.
“We transitioned from small mom-and-pop properties to larger hotel properties,” Patel said. “We still own several of those today. For the most part, that was our start in the industry.”
Then, in 2001, just a few months before 9/11 shook the world, Baywood Hotels was established and the need for a management infrastructure became evident.
“We were doing everything ourselves. We were overseeing everything,” Patel said. “We needed management to assist us. Marriott and Hilton needed us to have it as far as becoming franchisees at the time. We put that into place to accommodate them, and it turned out to be the right thing to do.”
That smart thinking and infrastructure has seen Baywood weather recessions and survive each one. And now today, the Greenbelt, Maryland-based hotel management company owns and operates more than $1 billion in hotel assets and is on its way to celebrate its 100th hotel opening in the United States this year.
100 AND COUNTING
Baywood recently welcomed the 126-room Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Riverwalk in San Antonio to its portfolio. The property’s location is central to the Riverwalk area, The Alamo and the entertainment district. The hotel was completed in September with a scheduled to open in October.
“The downtown neighborhood where this project is located is undergoing a massive revitalization. We have been instrumental in this revitalization by developing three abandoned historic properties over the past seven or eight years and restoring them into fantastic branded hotels,” Patel said.
The Hilton Garden Inn site was a one-story abandoned building, he said. The goal for the property is to further activate the neighborhood and help transform the area into a place where locals and tourists want to visit.
“We added 500 new people walking along Houston Street alone with our hotel developments on a given day,” Patel said. “Today, Houston Street has become a lively and extremely walkable area.”
The hotel itself is as impressive as the 100 hotels in Baywood’s portfolio. The entirely custom 11-story hotel has a lobby bar and balcony overlooking East Houston Street. The hotel also enjoys a rooftop pool, which is a first for any hotel in Baywood’s portfolio, Patel said.
“We as a company also have a lot of history and a great affinity for the city of San Antonio,” he said. “I enjoyed living there for several years in the mid ’90s. We also have offices in the city with over 30 associates, as well as over 18 hotels there.”
Opening its 100th hotel is no small accomplishment for a company that started with one 23-room property in Laurel, Md., Patel said.
“This is a milestone for our company, being a family business grounded with humble beginnings,” he said. “Our 100th hotel is huge for us because it is an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come, celebrate that achievement and look forward to our future.”
And that future looks bright. Patel said the opening demonstrates what sets Baywood apart from its competitors – its expansive growth with a footprint from coast to coast and regional offices in Herndon, Va.; Miami; San Antonio; Pittsford, N.Y.; and Aurora, Colo.
“We have a local feel but with a national footprint,” Patel said.
He said the Baywood team likes to operate in the top 25 to 50 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) with opportunities to cluster. He sees the company moving into markets that it historically has not been in, including states such as the Carolinas, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, Utah and California.
“We will stay true to our core competencies, which are developing and operating great select-service and extended-stay hotels,” Patel said. “We are also excited about opening our first design-forward hotels in the AC Hotel by Marriott in Miami and the Canopy by Hilton in Ithaca, New York.”
The company is not looking to do one-off deals, but rather the focus is on where it can expand its footprint – one that has taken the company all the way to India with Asia’s first Hampton Inn. Patel said he expects to have about a dozen additional hotel openings within the next 12 to 14 months. The company doesn’t have a target number in mind, as Patel said the team only grows as opportunities that make sense arise. As for continued global growth, Patel said company executives are conducting research and would like to see more reach but have no immediate plans. Focus is on further expansion in the United States.
“Opportunity met with perseverance is where we have always excelled,” Patel said.
When it comes to the brands Baywood works with, Patel said that the location and demands of the market call the shots.
“We are very fortunate to have great relationships with our brand partners and are able to collaborate with them to make sure we have the right flag at the right location,” he said. “We select brands that have a proven track record and brands that are universally known as institutional in investment quality.”
SUCCESS FROM THE START
Patel attributes much of Baywood’s success to the foundation created by his father more than 40 years ago. Some of the key attributes that Patel said his father taught him are patience, hard work and humility.
“My father always said you need to wait about a thousand days after opening a hotel before you know how successful a hotel will be,” Patel said in regard to his father’s patience.
Hard work and humility have always come with the job for Patel, who started on the foundation that no job was too small. Jobs in the housekeeping department helped him appreciate what each hotel’s associates do every day.
“It’s about humbleness,” Patel said. “One of our core pillars is to stay humble.”
Perhaps the most important thing Patel learned from his father was courage. When his father came to the United States, he had $7 in his pocket along with a master’s degree in chemical sciences. Although Patel’s father was employed as a senior chemist, he still decided to purchase that 23-room hotel in Laurel, Md., and move his family in to operate the property, balancing his job, a new business and his family.
“My father worked his full-time job, 40 hours a week, while working nights and weekends operating the hotel,” Patel said. “Throughout my lifetime, my father never shied away from a risky endeavor. He trusted his business acumen and guts. Today, I try to have the same confidence in myself.”
Although Patel said he didn’t see himself working in the hotel industry for the rest of his life during those early days, as the family business began to bud, Patel started to embrace the business and grew to love the industry.
“I cannot imagine doing anything else now,” he said. “The business is in my blood.”
Those qualities his father taught him during his growing career are the same type of characteristics Patel now looks for in his employees, especially when it comes to honesty and integrity.
“I am a proponent of a collaborative management style. I think the best way to get the job done is to have input from anyone and everyone involved,” Patel said. “For that to work, everyone has to be honest about their opinions and the conviction to voice them so that we are all on the same page.”
Baywood’s development of the distressed
Baywood Hotels has an expansive footprint that takes it across the United States all the way to Asia’s first Hampton Inn in India. Much of that development has come the way of acquiring distressed assets and bringing them to life again. In 1991, Baywood acquired its first distressed asset in an interchange off of I-95 north of Richmond, Va. Since then, the company has redeveloped and repositioned neglected and distressed hotels representing more than $100 million in investments.
Recent redevelopment projects completed by Baywood include:
Towneplace Suites by Marriott, San Antonio Downtown-Riverwalk, Texas
Home2 Suites by Hilton, San Antonio Downtown-Riverwalk, Texas
Home2 Suites by Hilton Downtown Baltimore, Maryland
Holiday inn Express Riverwalk, Texas
Holiday Inn Express Baltimore – Stadiums, Maryland
Comfort Inn Downtown/Convention Center, Washington D.C.
■PHOTO COURTESY OF BAYWOOD HOTELS