NATALIA PEREZ, MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS INTERN
In the past year, we've watched Chattanooga's economy further expand and evolve, and have celebrated its resiliency throughout the pandemic. Regardless of our current climate, the Chattanooga job market grows steadily, consistently attracting diverse talent, new opportunities and investments.
Roshan Amin, president and CEO of Dynamic Group, a Chattanooga-based hotel developer, has announced that the company is developing three new hotels in the Chattanooga area, with a total investment of $49 million. Site preparation has already begun at the first hotel, a Towne Place Suites in East Ridge (pictured below). Another Towne Place Suites in Hixson broke ground in January, and an Element by Westin on Shallowford Road near Hamilton Place Mall will begin this month. All three hotels are set to be completed in the first half of 2022.
The new properties will double Dynamic’s portfolio from three properties to six, adding 309 rooms to the company’s current total of 317.
Trend recently sat down with Amin to chat about these developments, the hospitality industry and investing in the Chattanooga market.
Trend: Why the further investment in the Chattanooga market?
Not only is this our hometown, so we understand the market, but we see it as a good size for a market. I’m not sure if Chattanooga is an anomaly because of big companies like Volkswagen, TVA and others that are here, or if it is just luck of the draw with our centralized East Coast location, which makes sense for the transportation and logistics companies that are based here, but when things get really volatile in the market, Chattanooga seems to ebb and flow and do fine. When things are really great, we do well. And when things are really bad, we still do okay. We find this to be a very stable market, the whole Southeast Tennessee area.
We also have a lot of history here. My family has over 75 or 80 combined years experience in this market, both in the hospitality industry and business in general. So we have confidence. We’ve seen so many recessions or down times come and go — and good times, too — and we’ve found a way to be successful through these times.
Even during the pandemic, we find this to be a drive-to destination for leisure travel, especially on the weekends. Chattanooga’s outdoor green space is very inviting for the pandemic scenario that we’re in. As we come out of it, with all that pent-up demand, green space is still going to be attractive. A clean place to go will be attractive after the pandemic as well.
Trend: What kind of travelers do you anticipate at these new locations? Business, tourism, etc.?
I think in East Ridge we’ll see more tourism, with a little bit of business.
In Hixson we’ll see more business with a little less leisure, but also the hospital in Hixson (Memorial) is going to be a driver. We also anticipate TVA having a lot of business that comes through the Hixson market. Right now they’re traveling all the way to Shallowford Road or downtown for a hotel. Now they’ll have an option that’s a little closer to TVA facilities at Chickamauga Dam or Watts Bar.
For the Element hotel, the Hamilton Place area has been a strong market for decades. It continues to thrive with a good mix of business and leisure, roughly 50-50.
Trend: How will your marketing strategy/tactics appeal to the travelers you anticipate?
The beauty of the Marriott engine that we’re utilizing in all three of these projects is that people love Marriott. It’s the leader in the hotel industry, and that’s why we’ve committed to so many Marriott projects over the last four or five years. We had focused almost exclusively on Marriott. Now we have Hilton projects in the pipeline for markets that are underserved with Hilton hotel rooms, but for now we’re focused on Marriott, and they drive business. Their reservation system is an engine in itself that bodes well with our fantastic sales team.
Your sense of arrival to a hotel is extremely important, the cleanliness of the outside, how welcome you feel when you come inside. If we can keep scores up — above 4.7 or 4.8 out of 5 in reviews — we’ll be a leader in the market. People are very social media driven, and they check reviews online. As long as you are doing well online people are going to be gravitating to the property.
We keep our scores high by paying attention to detail, having good eye contact with guests, always smiling. We make sure we’re listening to our guests. It’s the little things. Everyone does the big things. It’s the little things that take you over the edge from ordinary to extraordinary.
Trend: What's most interesting about working in the hospitality industry?
It’s not really interesting to me, it’s a passion. We really enjoy what we do. We go out there and we really want to serve these communities. We’ve gotten so much by having the opportunity to be raised here, to be educated here, to understand what family is and what community is. Now we want to give back to that community and serve that community.
Trend: What's most challenging about working in the hospitality industry?
The challenge in hospitality goes back to what I said about reviews, to be candid. Travelers can be really critical in times like these. They can be hyper sensitive to certain things related to the pandemic, or convenience in relation to where their meetings or events are in the area. It’s very competitive in this market. We’re trying to raise the bar, to improve that for the Southeast Tennessee market, so that not only we but the rest of the hoteliers in the market have to bump their game up and keep up.
Trend: How do you think the hospitality industry has transformed in the past year, and how do you think it will continue to change in the current climate?
I think downtowns and urban areas are the most challenging because people immediately identify concentration of people with urban areas. But that’s really not true right now, because there just are not as many people downtown. We’d love to see more people in downtown so long as they are responsible. Roadside hotel markets — such as East Ridge, Hixson, Shallowford Road, where our three new developments are — are performing really well, even through 2020.
As we have adapted to the circumstances of the last year, there have been some operational changes and housekeeping changes that have been implemented. There’s been a commitment to cleanliness, specifically from Marriott. It’s something they’ve really made part of their culture, and we have adopted that in all of our hotels, not just the ones with the Marriott name.
We think that’s more than just something the hospitality industry needed to do to let people feel safe during the pandemic. It’s actually a higher level of service. If you’re doing something better than you’d done previously, why not maintain that? If you get an ‘A,’ keep an ‘A.’
Now that we’ve raised the bar for cleanliness because of the pandemic, I think the average traveler will have a higher expectation going forward. We see it as an opportunity to outshine our competitors, and we plan to continue it beyond the end of the pandemic. If other hotels don’t continue to do so after the pandemic passes, they’re going to be hurting.
Trend: What do you think a client looks for in a good hotel experience in 2021, and how have you kept up with/managed the changing expectations of customers?
Really they’re so pent up with cabin fever and wanting to get out that, other than cleanliness, I don’t know how much they’re looking for. They don’t even seem to be as price sensitive as they were in previous years. I think their main focus has shifted to cleanliness, being socially responsible with social distancing, having masks and sanitation items available.
A key to healthy business in any environment is the ability to adapt. Those that can adapt will survive and succeed, but those that are rigid will have a hard time. Part of our mission and vision is to always have that ability to adapt and exceed expectations, not only with hotels but our downtown Rodizio Grill restaurant.