The ups and downs of hotel ownership with AAHOA Members Amit and Brittany Patel
Embarking on a journey in the hospitality industry often involves a blend of passion, persistence, and an appetite for challenges. In this exclusive interview, we sit down with Amit Patel, a seasoned hospitality entrepreneur, and his wife, Brittany Patel, who ventured into the world of hotels, brewpubs, and more. Amit’s story begins in the early ’90s when his father acquired a modest motel on the sunny shores of Daytona, FL. From there, his career took a fascinating trajectory, filled with highs, lows, and remarkable experiences that ultimately led to the creation of the couple’s very own Microtel in picturesque Georgetown, CO.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN HOSPITALITY?
Amit: In 1993, my dad purchased a 28-room motel, known at the time as the Lincoln Beach Motel, in Daytona, FL. He taught me how to clean rooms, make rooms, rent rooms, and fill up the vending machine. He always encouraged me to think of new ways to ensure the rooms and guests were cared for. The good news is I was learning all of this on a property that was on the beach. So, I also got to learn how to surf, which was a cool thing to do growing up.
AFTER THE INDEPENDENT HOTEL, YOU WENT OFF TO COLLEGE. WHAT MADE YOU COME BACK TO THE HOTEL INDUSTRY?
Amit: My dad said we were going to buy a hotel together. I was only 25 years old at the time and had finished college. We purchased a little hotel in Apopka, FL, and had that property for nearly 14 years. Those years were full of trials and tribulations. We bought it in 2001, and that’s when 9/11 happened, so that set us back from a business standpoint.
Then, seven years later, the 2008 financial crisis hit. Despite the setbacks, the property in Apopka became a testament to our perseverance and commitment to the hotels we started.
WHILE YOU HELPED GROW THE FAMILY HOTEL PROPERTIES, YOU ALSO GOT TO SERVE THE INDUSTRY IN ANOTHER CAPACITY. CAN YOU SHARE MORE ABOUT THAT?
Amit: In May 2012, I was elected as president of the Rodeway Inn Owners Association. At the time, I was the youngest person ever elected to the position. I have been a member of the Rodeway Inn Owners Association for the past three years. I was incredibly honored and excited to have been able to serve my fellow owners, staff, and our hotel guests in this leadership role.
YOU EVENTUALLY TOOK A COUPLE OF YEARS AND WORKED FOR CHOICE CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS IN WASHINGTON, D.C. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?
Amit: I ended up doing owner relations across all Choice Hotels International brands. I acted as a liaison in addressing various issues and helped identify opportunities for Choice to leverage better relations to retain and renew existing franchisees.
IN ADDITION TO CHOICE, YOU ALSO HAVE EXPERIENCE WORKING WITH WYNDHAM. HOW DID YOU MAKE THE TRANSITION?
Amit: I took a sales and development role with Wyndham, and that’s how my wife Brittany and I moved out West. I was recognized as salesman of the year for Wyndham because I sold a lot of Microtels in the Northwest. That motivated Brittany and me to open a Wyndham Microtel in Georgetown, CO.
YOU WENT FROM CHOICE CORPORATE TO WYNDHAM HOTELS, WHICH BROUGHT YOU OUT WEST, AND THEN YOU DECIDED TO BUILD A HOTEL. CAN YOU SHARE MORE ABOUT THAT?
Brittany: Georgetown is a small, historic town in Colorado. We met with city officials in 2014 and explained to them that we wanted to open a Microtel. We went through many challenges, years of planning, and subdivision issues before breaking ground. We had another big meeting with the town in 2018 and then opened the property three years later.
Amit: We built the hotel ourselves, too. We were essentially the general contractors of the property.
Brittany: Lending was one of the biggest challenges. Everyone told us it wouldn’t work. There are no comps set for us in Georgetown. There is no competition and no franchise competition 20 miles in either direction. We’re it. During COVID, we slowed construction, but we eventually opened the Microtel in January 2021. Fast forward to today, and we’re doing great. We have a lot of support from the town and Wyndham.
HOW HAS WYNDHAM SUPPORTED ALL THE INCREDIBLE HOSPITALITY WORK YOU’RE DOING IN THIS HISTORIC TOWN?
Brittany: There are about 315 to 320 Microtels at any given point. We consistently are in the top 10. With Agoda revenue, we’re hitting close to year five and six in our first, second, and third years. On Agoda and Priceline, we were ranked number one in Colorado, which ties us to number three in the U.S. It’s good to have that much positive feedback from our guests because that’s what’s happening here. We have really clean rooms, excellent service, and an ideal location.
YOU SOLD PART OF YOUR LAND TO A DIFFERENT PARTNER GROUP SO THEY COULD BUILD CABIN CREEK BREWING, A BREWPUB, RIGHT NEXT TO YOUR MICROTEL. IN 2020, FELLOW BREWERS VOTED CABIN CREEK THE NEW BREWERY OF THE YEAR IN COLORADO. WHAT HAS THAT BEEN LIKE FOR YOUR HOTEL BUSINESS?
Brittany: The convenience of not having to get back in a car. They can walk 50 feet and go to this fantastic brewery on a lake with a 360-degree view of the mountains. We get positive feedback from people appreciating how close the property is to a brewery. It’s a great partnership.
WHERE ARE MOST OF YOUR GUESTS WHO STAY AT YOUR MICROTEL TRAVELING FROM?
Brittany: We get a lot of guests from Texas, California, and even Colorado. Interstate 70 is the main highway crossing Colorado and the only way from Denver to the ski resorts. We are literally on the road, with complete visibility. People prefer staying at our property for two nights, so they don’t have to drive back and forth for a hiking or skiing weekend.
THROUGHOUT YOUR HOSPITALITY CAREER, YOU BOTH EXPERIENCE GREAT OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES. HOW WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE THE YOUNGER GENERATION TO STICK WITH THIS INDUSTRY?
Brittany: I never would have seen myself getting into the hotel business. I’m a computer engineer. I come from a family of engineers. But, my family always encouraged me to ‘be your boss.’ You’re going to have challenges regardless of what it is you do. But, if you can be your boss doing it, you’re in a better situation. You’ll figure it out.
Amit: It goes back to the whole chicken coop thing, right? You want to avoid being a chicken in the chicken coop, which is what many other systems are all about. There’s only one rooster in that scenario. You don’t end up moving up, sideways, down, or whichever way. At the end of the day, we didn’t say no. If we had said no, the brewery wouldn’t have happened, or this hotel wouldn’t have happened.