Destinations

How a Small Chattanooga Hotel Became One of Expedia’s Top-Rated Properties

Aug 10, 2014 1:00 pm

Skift Take

Little things mean a lot, and a hotel that wipes clean your car’s windshield overnight is a perk that guests will remember.

— Dennis Schaal

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Embassy Suites

An outdoor patio near the indoor pool at Embassy Suites Chattanooga - Hamilton Place. Embassy Suites


It could be the complimentary car care or the bedside Moon Pie. Maybe it’s the Peet’s coffee or flavored water, available any time, any day.

No one knows for sure, but one thing is certain: something boosted Chattanooga’s Embassy Suites at Hamilton Place to be among the top 200 hotels for Expedia’s annual ranking of the best-reviewed hotels worldwide. That’s out of 290,000 hotels.

It goes without saying that the development duo who built and own the hotel are pleased. Ken DeFoor tried to talk his brother, Byron, out of the project. The two had built office complexes, but not lodging, he reasoned.

“It’s the best time I was ever wrong,” DeFoor said.

The Chattanooga hotel is located right next to the city’s retail hub: the sprawling network of stores that wind around Hamilton Place Mall.

“It’s one of the best exits in the state, across from the largest mall in the state,” DeFoor said.

The amount of traffic to and from Interstate 75 exit is “enormous,” said Paul Mezick, the hotel’s manager. Travelers from as far north as Minnesota and as far south as Florida roll off the ramp, he said.

Those points were big reasons for putting the hotel where it is, DeFoor said. And the DeFoors picked the Embassy Suites brand in part because several savvy business people advised them to do so, he said.

The 203-room hotel, all suites, opened just over a year ago, on June 14, 2013. From that day through the end of 2013, it had a 54 percent occupancy rate, Mezick said. The rate shot up to 76 percent in the first seven months of 2014. June and July are the hotel’s two best occupancy months. Room rates range from $119 to $219 a night.

The seven-story hotel includes Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and more than 10,000 square feet of meeting or event space.

Expedia couldn’t provide data showing whether other hotels in the region had won the same honor in the past. This year, six other Tennessee hotels and seven Georgia hotels made the Insiders’ Select list. But only two of those, both in Georgia, whit the top 200; the rest ranked in the top 650.

Expedia has been putting out its Insiders’ Select list since 2008. It uses a “unique blend” of nearly 2 million verified guest reviews and in-house experts to determine winners, said Dayna Sason, a spokeswoman for the company.

Guests rate service and staff, as well as room cleanliness and comfort. They also rate the hotel’s general condition.

Of course, every hotel wants to do well in those areas, said Mezick, the hotel manager. But his team and the DeFoors knew they had to do something “better, unique,” he said.

So, shortly after opening, staff started wiping down guests’ car windshields every night and leaving a note on them that reads, “Your windshield has been cleaned because you deserve the best view of Chattanooga.”

Moon Pies are in every room, with a card telling of the treat’s local history.

“We wanted to have our own traditions,” Mezick said. “Things that would really be remembered.”

Contact staff writer Mitra Malek at mmalek@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406. ___

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