Hotel proprietor seeing benefits of change

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; In the hotel industry, you have to invest in your product to stay competitive. For Andy Patel, that investment means a major remodeling effort at the Western Inn on Devereux Drive.

&uot;It’s like a house.

If no one stays in it, it becomes like junk,&uot; said Patel, whose brother-in-law, Alex Patel, owns the Western Inn and the Excellence Suites on U.S. 61 South.

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Andy said when Alex bought the Western last August, it only had 20 rooms to rent, and those were in bad shape. But the 45 rooms that have been remodeled in the past six months are far from junk now, sporting new carpet, wallpaper, bathrooms and beds.

&uot;We have 15 more rooms to remodel.

When we finish, the hotel will become an Econolodge,&uot; said Andy, who works as an accountant for Alex.

For hotel clerk Angela Tenner, who was working the mid-shift at the Western until

9 p.m. Sunday, the improvements are already paying benefits.

&uot;When people who have been here come back in they like it, because it’s totally different,&uot; she said, checking in a guest from behind a spacious counter in the lobby.

The hotel business in Natchez depends heavily on tourism &045; especially during the Spring Pilgrimage. Andy hopes the tourist trade will improve after a slow season this year.

&uot;Natchez is a historic town, but people did not travel as much this year.

I think the war and the terror alerts have stopped some travelers, especially from other countries, like France and Germany,&uot; he said.

Natchez has provided a change of pace for Andy and his wife, Kim, who moved with their three children from Toronto, Canada, in 2001 to join Alex in the hotel business.

&uot;Natchez is a good place. It’s quiet &045; not too much traffic,&uot; he said.