The COVID-19 pandemic is crushing the hotel business of Sunny Desai and his family in the obvious way, as occupancy of the three hotels they own and operate has plunged 85%.
But the pandemic also is hurting the family in a less obvious way. It’s brought the construction of a fourth hotel to a halt while the interest owed on their project loan continues to accrue.
Not only does that mean the family will end up paying more interest than they would have if the hotel had opened on time, it’s cast a pall of anxiety on the family about how their $10 million Holiday Inn Express outside Mount Joy will fare whenever it does debut.
“We’re actually very worried about, once the new hotel is up and running, whether the business is going to be there,” said Desai.
The 85-room hotel, initially scheduled to open in July, now will be ready “in early fall” at best. It’s projected to create up to 25 jobs at peak times.
The site at 1550 E. Main St. (Route 230) was picked because of its proximity to Spooky Nook Sports, which drew 1.3 million visitors last year.
But in the post-pandemic world, who knows?
Desai, 32, of Lancaster, is a graduate of Manheim Central High School and Temple University. His family has 50 years of experience in the lodging industry, dating to his uncle’s initial involvement in 1970.
Through the family’s company, PA Dutch Hotels, which Desai serves as director of operations, the company runs a Comfort Suites on Lincoln Highway East, a Comfort Inn at the Shops at Rockvale and a Clarion Inn in Strasburg. Another family company, Lancaster Dutch Hospitality, which Desai serves as vice president, is the developer, owner and franchisee.
Desai said he often runs into people who don’t realize that a national or international-brand hotel frequently is owned by local businesspeople as franchisees. People also typically don’t know that franchisees who are small businesspeople routinely personally guarantee the mortgages on their hotels, he said.