There’s a change coming

Comfort Inn is being renamed Baymont Inn & Suites

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Paresh Bhatt, at right, who owns what will soon be named the Baymont Inn & Suites, and Whitney Faulkner, hotel manager, hold up a banner that will be used to help rebrand the property as the Baymont Inn & Suites. The hotel is at 2938 Fifth Ave. S. on the city’s Corridor of Commerce.

There will be a new hotel brand on Fort Dodge’s booming Corridor of Commerce as of Tuesday. Comfort Inn, 2938 Fifth Ave. S., is being renamed Baymont Inn & Suites.

“We are part of the Choice Hotel Group right now,” said Paresh Bhatt, who owns the hotel. “We are going to Wyndham Hotels. Wyndham has more than 7,500 hotels. We will have the brand name Baymont Inn & Suites. It is a growing brand with more than 425 hotels. They are nationwide. They are midscale. There 14 in Iowa, we are number 15.”

Bhatt said being part of the Wyndham system is a better fit for his hotel than remaining part of the Comfort Inn brand in part because of changes taking place in its future marketing strategy.

“Comfort Inn is asking for three-story hotels minimum,” he said. “We don’t have that. We can’t put a third story on the building. They are also looking for elevators and much larger public areas. We don’t have more room in this small building to make those changes.”

Bhatt said his decision to affiliate with Baymont Inn & Suites was also motivated by the fact that he is already invested in another Fort Dodge hotel that is part of the Choice Hotels network. The Comfort Inn properties are part of the Choice marketing system.

“I’m a partner in the new Sleep Inn in Fort Dodge,” Bhatt said. “It’s part of the Choice Group. So I thought I would go for a different market with this hotel.”

A few changes

For the most part, guests won’t notice much change when the signage says Baymont Inn & Suites rather than Comfort Inn.

“The new sign will be here in March,” Bhatt said. “We’ve got a banner with the new name that we’ll put up until then. We’ve also just changed all the mattresses. We spent more than $35,000 on mattresses.”

Many of the old mattress sets have been donated to charity.

“With this hotel and others that I own, when we make changes, we don’t sell anything. We give the old items to people in need,” Bhatt said. “About 45 mattress sets went to people in town who were in need.”

He said the lobby and hallway walls of the hotel are also set to be repainted this month.

A big change, however, that Bhatt said many guests who travel a lot will find appealing is that they will now be able to participate in the Wyndham Hotels frequent traveler program.

“They have the largest frequent traveler program in the USA,” he said.

According to its corporate website, Wyndham Hotel Group is the world’s “largest and most diverse hotel business.” It features 16 hotel brands with more than 7,800 hotels in 73 countries. Those properties offer nearly 700,000 hotel rooms. The Baymont Inn & Suites sector is a rapidly growing part of this vast system. Bhatt said that was part of the appeal of changing to this affiliation.

“Eighteen months ago when I talked to them, Baymont Inn & Suites had 250 hotels,” he said. “Now they have more than 425. They are geared toward both business and leisure travelers.”

Meet Paresh Bhatt

When Paresh Bhatt was a young man in the Gujarat, an Indian state north and west of Mumbai, he didn’t set out to be in the hotel business. He came to the United States in 1990 to pursue work as an engineer with a company in the Boston, Massachusetts, area.

He said a career downturn led him to take a serious look at becoming a business owner so he could have more control over his economic fate. Bhatt said many Indians have been extremely successful in the hotel industry. That was one of the reasons he decided to take a look at that option. He concluded that hotel ownership would be a good fit for him and his family.

Today Bhatt has investments in several hotels, but his entry into the hospitality world began with the purchase of the Comfort Inn in Fort Dodge.

“This was my first hotel,” he said. “I acquired it in June 2003. I have partners. The company is Shivam Hospitality Inc.”

When he arrived in Fort Dodge, Bhatt was the hands-on general manager for the hotel he had just acquired. His career has evolved over the years.

“I’m more of an investor now,” Bhatt said. “The guy that built the new Sleep Inn & Suites here, I’m a partner with him in three different hotels. All the new ones he’s building, I’m joining him.”

He said the success he has had in Fort Dodge has made it possible for him to expand his business.

“Fort Dodge has been very good to me. This hotel is the first business of my life, so it has special place in my heart,” he said. “My kids have gone to Fort Dodge public schools since their first grade. We have benefited immensely from being in a town on the move, at the right place at the right time by moving to Fort Dodge. All my progress has mainly been because of this town. I’ll always be grateful to Fort Dodge for everything we have been able to achieve and do in our lives. I was able to do well here, so I was able to buy a hotel in Oskaloosa, which I sold in November. Then did so well that I was able to buy other places.”

Bhatt said the key to prospering as a hotel owner is quite straightforward.

“I think the secret is taking care of people and that starts with the employees,” he said. “Take care of the employees and they will take care of the customers. That in turn will take care of you.”

FD Baymont Inn & Suites

The Baymont Inn & Suites in Fort Dodge was built in 1994. It has 46 rooms in assorted configurations: single king bedrooms, rooms with two queen-sized beds, king bed suites and one king suite with a Jacuzzi. There is an indoor pool with hot tub, an exercise room, a breakfast area, a business and a meeting room that seats about 10 people. A hot breakfast is served from 6 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. every day.

The day-to-day operations of the hotel are overseen by Paresh Bhatt’s wife, Dipa Bhatt, and manager Whitney Faulkner. The hotel has 15 employees.