EVANSVILLE - Omkar Bhatt said he’s hopeful Evansville’s tourism business can grow as fast as its hotel room inventory.
Bhatt’s company, Lotus Hotel Group LLC, is the new owner of Comfort Inn at 8331 E. Walnut St., near I-69 and Lloyd Expressway.
The sale price was listed at $4.8 million. Bhatt, 29, has been in Evansville since June, making improvements at the 111-room hotel built in 1999. The most recent owner was a California company.
“There were a lot of things they weren’t doing correctly and got overlooked,” Bhatt said. “The employee retention was awful. It was like a revolving door. And there was no loyalty among customers or employees. We want to make sure there are familiar faces when people come here.”
Bhatt is a native of India and resided in the United States since 2002. His family is in the hotel business, and Bhatt took a crash course in all things Evansville since arriving in town.
After relocating to Evansville from Houston, Bhatt met with Mayor Lloyd Winnecke and Convention & Visitors Bureau staff.
He’s learned since coming to town about the influx of new hotel rooms Downtown — a Doubletree convention hotel built in part with public funds and two planned privately-financed properties, a new Hyatt Place and a renovated Riverhouse. Another new hotel is planned in Newburgh.
“Evansville is in a great position, but economically speaking we still need to do more. We need to bring in more business. We have plenty of hotels. We have so many rooms, and we need to do more to meet the supply of rooms we have,” Bhatt said.
Hotel occupancy rates in the Evansville market typically hover in the 60 percent range. City and CVB officials said there’s a constant push to market to meeting planners, sporting events and various other groups and functions.
It’s critical for hoteliers that those efforts succeed, said Bhatt. He said he and his business partners are looking for other investments in the area.
“We see a lot of positives in this town,” Bhatt said.