The BLLA Team sits down with Mitch Patel, President & CEO of Vision Hospitality Group & Runner-Up for the Iconic Boutique Hotelier of 2021 Award!
BLLA: How did you enter the hospitality industry?
MP: “I grew up in Stockton, CA where my parents leased the 11-room Steven’s Motel and we lived in an apartment behind the office. After three years, they had saved enough money to purchase a Scottish Inn in Cleveland, TN and we relocated from California to Tennessee in the middle of my 5th grade year. Growing up in the “motel business” since the age of eight, I certainly did not aspire to pursue a career in hospitality. Instead, I looked to civil engineering earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees before moving to Atlanta as a project engineer designing roads and bridges.
“Although I was appreciative of the job, I did not enjoy it. I can remember watching the clock every day and just waiting for the weekends. I was young but I knew this was no way to live. Then, one day, I received a call about an opportunity to build a hotel in Chattanooga, TN. It was a relatively new brand that few had heard of, called Homewood Suites, and even though I grew up in the business, I had no idea how to build or manage a hotel. I had saved $3,000 dollars and borrowed the rest to invest in my first property. During construction, I wore the General Contractor’s hard hat and then at opening, I put on a tie as the General Manager. We opened that hotel on April 24, 1997, and while it was not easy, that is where I found my passion and I have never looked back. This April marks the 25th anniversary of Vision Hospitality Group, and today we own over 40 hotels in 8 states with a market cap approaching a billion dollars and growing.”
BLLA: How is creating boutique hotels the work of an artisan?
MP: “It is difficult to fully appreciate something if you are not educated about it; like wine, art, coffee and even boutique hotels. The first time I stayed at a great boutique hotel, I fell in love with the entire experience: the bed, the art, the scents, and all the other thoughtful touches throughout the hotel. I felt an immediate connection with the hotel and the community I was visiting; a sense of belonging. It transformed me, and now I want to transform others. I learned that in order to create these unique boutique experiences it takes the approach of an artisan’s dedication and commitment, where your passion, thoughtfulness and creativity is required to curate the contents of the hotel. I believe that successfully executing a thoughtfully designed boutique hotel includes a great deal of care and planning across multiple disciplines from the beginning.”
BLLA: Why do you believe in the boutique movement?
MP: “Over the years I have strived to perfect the craft of hospitality and in the course of that effort, I have been introduced to, and subsequently developed, a tremendous passion for thoughtfully curated, independent boutique hotels that tell a great story. Over time it became personal and made my travel experiences more fulfilling, no matter where I was. Whenever I travelled, whether for business or pleasure, I have sought out unique, local experiences. But more often than not, I noticed most hotel options are in two buckets: endless options of mainstream, commoditized hotels that may provide value but no experience or unique independent hotels that miss the point, are unapproachable and are often rate prohibitive to most travelers. A growing number of travelers today are younger and looking for these experiences but do not have the wallet yet to afford these experiences. I thought, what if there were a new lodging option that could provide that unique, authentic experience with the benefits of a hotel but be approachable form a rate perspective? We have a great opportunity to provide something that the sharing economy cannot, and that is service and socialization. Experiences are the new commodities, and with that in mind, I set out to create a hotel that would provide a unique, thoughtfully curated, and authentic hotel experience and to differentiate by being approachable and providing a value proposition at a price point not much greater than that of a mainstream hotel. This would become our latest concept, the award-winning Kinley.”
BLLA: How does being a boutique hotelier provide fulfillment in your life?
MP: “I am blessed that I get to do what I love. I have found my passion, working hard to find success has been deeply fulfilling and when you love what you do, it does not feel like work; it is just life. We create incredible beverage and food concepts and one-of-a-kind hotel experiences for a living. We have been pioneers in midsize and midmarket cities, putting successful boutique concepts in these markets.“