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Garden City hotelier looks to open Best Western

1/16/2013

By ANGIE HAFLICH

By ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

A local hotel owner is looking to add to his portfolio, with plans to open a new Best Western Plus Emerald Inn and Suites in eastern Garden City.

P-Jay Patel, owner of the Continental Inn, 1408 Buffalo Jones Ave., hopes to break ground some time next week on the new 60-room hotel, which will be located at 2412 E. Kansas Ave, just off the U.S. Highway 50/83/400 bypass.

Once he receives the permit, which he thinks will be some time this week, Patel will host a groundbreaking ceremony and then hopes to begin construction right away. Plans are to have the new hotel open in the fall.

"The architect is saying between nine and 10 months, so it depends on the weather. If the weather stays the way it is right now, and there's no stoppages, we're probably looking at October, somewhere in that ballpark, to open up," he said.

Patel said he conducted intensive feasibility studies, including current occupancy levels and room rates, to ensure that another hotel in Garden City would be viable.

"It will probably cost about $6 million to build, so believe me, we did feasibility studies. We did several studies," he said. "We had data going 10 years back for both (rates and occupancy levels) to make sure that this project is feasible because it's a lot of money, and if we don't do our homework, it's going to be a problem."

Patel said Best Western has three tiers of hotels: Best Western, Best Western Plus and Best Western Premier.

"... I wanted to do a Best Western Premier full-service hotel, but they usually put those hotels up in metroplex cities to compete with the Marriotts and Hilton. So they said Garden City's not the right market for it, so I opted for the Best Western Plus, but it's going to have a premier atmosphere," he said.

Patel hopes to bring something unique to Garden City that will cater to both business travelers and weekend shoppers.

"It's a AAA-rated hotel. The furnishings will be upgraded furnishings," he said, adding that he also hopes to appeal to weekend shoppers and visitors. "I'm trying to give them a property where they can come in and get that 'homey' feeling, where they can enjoy all the amenities and do their shopping, as well."

He estimates room rates at the new facility to be at least $100 per night.

"Basically, I have to sit down with the sales department of Best Western to come up with a rate where its going to be beneficial to us and the town itself. We have to be competitive. I'm not going to rent rooms for less than $100 because I have those kind of amenities to offer them where they won't mind paying that," he said.

While he didn't want to share specific amenities, Patel said the hotel is an open concept, which will include a large lobby area, with plenty of seating, as well as an indoor pool.

Because Best Western is operated as a cooperative of independent owner operators, rather than a traditional franchise, Patel said he was able to come up with his own design.

"They're owner-operated, and they're all different. They're not like a cookie-cutter hotel," he said. "I told the architect what I wanted, so he built it around my vision. He designs it, Best Western approves it and if they have any changes, they'll let me know. We can build it to however we want, and that's the beauty about Best Western."

Patel has a couple of reasons for wanting to start the new venture.

"The people who are looking to come work on the farms, they can stay (at the Continental Inn)," he said, adding that having another location that caters to other clientele will help offset seasonal lulls he now experiences. "People who are looking for a little higher-end property can come and stay there, so it's the best of both worlds. That's what I was looking at, giving people a choice. I have two different brands I can offer them in Garden City."

He said that initially, his wife, Hemi Patel, will continue to manage the Continental Inn, while he manages the Best Western, but that eventually, he will hire hotel management to run the new location.

Lona DuVall, president of the Finney County Economic Development Corp., said that occupancy rates in existing hotels are typically high, indicating a need for more rooms.

"We're running really, really high occupancy rates during the business week, and not doing bad at all on the weekends either. But certainly, during the business week, we've got good, strong occupancy rates. And he's looking at building in some additional meeting space, which is definitely a huge need here, so that's a good thing," DuVall said.

She also said that she consistently hears reports of people having to stay in outlying communities in order to conduct business in Garden City.

"I hear that pretty regularly now, so it certainly won't hurt. The other benefit is the flag side of it. There are certain travelers who have a real brand identity that they like to stick with, and we don't currently have Best Western represented in the community. So having a nice, upscale Best Western just draws another traveler, whether it be a traveler who's here for tourist activities or for business activities."

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