Second-generation hoteliers Riki and Kris Patel aren’t too focused on their titles at HOS Management, the hotel development firm that their father Kirit and uncle, Anil Patel, founded more than 30 years ago.
“We grew up in the industry, so we’re not title-oriented folks,” said Riki, 31. Formally, Riki and Kris, 27, who serves as chief financial officer, began their current positions about five years ago, but their role in the company began long before adulthood and college degrees.
“Our daily activity was, go to school, do homework and then go to the hotel and help out in whatever way possible. From the front desk, to maintenance to cleaning rooms if we had to and scrubbing toilets,” Kris said.
After coming to the United States from India, Anil and Kirit Patel purchased their first 15-room motel in Texas in 1985, which led to the purchase of two more, one in Michigan and another in Savannah. In the following years the company continued to expand with properties in Texas, Michigan, Florida and other locations across Georgia.
Now in Savannah, they operate the Cotton Sail Hotel on Bay Street, the Hampton Inn &Suites near Interstate 95 and Highway 204 and the newly opened Fairfield Inn &Suites on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and they’ll soon add to their downtown footprint with two more hotel developments.
“After years and years of work they moved up and went from 15-rooms to 30-rooms until where we are today developing brand new 140-room branded hotels,” Riki said of his father’s and uncle’s success.
Today, the company’s primary focus is new hotel development, which includes acquiring the property as well as a hotel brand and managing the brand.
“We run it as a family operation from day one,” Riki said.
“We don’t develop and sell. We develop for our own and we have a long-term reputation with many different brands that we’ve worked with over the years.”
Anil remains active in the development and construction aspect of the company while Kirit, who is semi-retired, still works closely with Kris to oversee finances.
“(Anil) is the visionary guy. He sees something and he wants to do it and we’re just agents to help him through with his visions,” Riki said.
“… Ultimately, we have to get the blessings of those two folks in order for us to move forward with a project.”
The Patels just celebrated two new projects last week: the grand opening of a 140-room Fairfield Inn &Suites by Marriott at 135 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., and a groundbreaking for their new Aloft Hotel at 512 W. Oglethorpe Ave.
Riki said the Fairfield project has been on the radar since 2008, but after the economy crashed the project was put on hold. Construction was able to get off the ground about two years ago. It’s the first Fairfield Inn for HOS and features its own parking deck.
“That’s pretty unique that we have our own parking and we’re not going to the city and taking up their spaces,” Riki said.
Aloft is a Starwood Hotels &Resorts Worldwide hotel brand, and the downtown location will be Aloft’s first location in Savannah. Full-time construction is set to begin next week and should take between 18 and 24 months to complete.
“It’s more of a modern-feel, contemporary hotel,” Riki said of the planned 135-room Aloft location, which will feature ground-floor retail space and space for a local restaurant. It will also be pet-friendly and have an outdoor pet area.
“… It’s something very unique. It’s very vibrant.”
Along with the Fairfield and Aloft, HOS will continue to make their mark on downtown in 2017 with the Cambria Suites at 321 Montgomery St., which will break ground sometime in April.
“There’s clearly a demand,” Riki said of the growing downtown hotel market, which remains stable because of steady occupancy rates. Along with downtown, Riki said the area around the airport remains a top performer.
“… They can still sustain growth and they can still find enough tourists to accommodate that growth. We’re well out of the economic downturn from 2008 and back then the growth had stopped… But in the past two to three years you’re seeing that new growth come back.”
While the need for rooms remains constant, the market is also experiencing changes. In the last few years the boutique hotel concept has all but replaced the idea of the typical hotel. Boutique hotels are smaller and offer guests a more personal and locally branded experience with curated art collections and locally owned restaurants and bars.
The Patels ventured into the boutique market a few years ago when they renovated an old cotton warehouse built in the 1800s into the 56-room Cotton Sail Hotel on Bay Street, which opened in 2014.
With the addition of the Cotton Sail to their portfolio, Kris said the company is able to accommodate all sorts of travelers from business to millennials and beyond.
“It’s gotten to a point where people just don’t want that same experience going from a branded hotel to a different branded hotel. If you stay at a Hilton property, Hilton travelers are going to expect the same room at any Hilton they travel to,” Kris said.
“The trend has shifted now to where travelers want a different experience every time they travel and we’ve seen a great growth in that segment… And if there’s an opportunity for more boutique hotels that will give our travelers a different experience, we’re all about it.”
The brothers and HOS will remain busy in the future with numerous groundbreakings and projects on the books including the Cambria Suites in downtown; Aloft Hotel near Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport; Hilton Garden Inn near the Interstate 95 and Highway 204 interchange and a Hilton Garden Inn and Home2 Suites dual-branded hotel in Brunswick.
About four years ago, HOS purchased office space in Godley Station Professional Park in Pooler, which is currently undergoing some minor renovations to accommodate their growth, but the brothers suspect they’ll outgrow the office in a matter of years. If they relocate, they say they won’t be going too far.
“We expect to be in Savannah for a long time. We have no plans of moving out of Savannah. This will forever be our home,” Riki said, adding that in the last few years the company had liquidated some assets to focus more on local ventures.
“We look forward to doing more developments here in the area. … The future is pretty bright for us.”