September 24, 2017
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The Next Generation

Evansville’s Dunn Hospitality Group expands with two millennial-style hotels
Dunn Hospitality Group is celebrating 40 years of business this year, president and COO David Dunn and chairman and CEO John

Dunn Hospitality Group may be celebrating 40 years of business in 2017, but they are keeping their mindset young. The Evansville-based, third-generation, family-run hotel company is catering to the region’s millennial population with two new modern hotels on the city’s East Side.

The group opened a Holiday Inn Express in January and a Home2 Suites by Hilton in mid-March amid the booming retail, restaurant, and business district off E. Lloyd Expressway and Cross Pointe Boulevard.

From the contemporary furniture and brightly colored accent décor to spacious communal dining and seating areas, as well as laundry, workout, pool, and patio areas, Home2 Suites has millennials’ priorities covered, says Dunn Hospitality chairman and CEO and Evansville native John Dunn. The 102-room hotel offers a range of accommodations for extended-stay guests: substantial, studio-apartment-like rooms boasting full kitchens outfitted with a refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher and dishes, and single or double queen beds and a sofa bed.

Dunn Hospitality’s new Holiday Inn Express also has a splash of millennial style with 92 modern king and queen rooms and amenities including a pool, gym, breakfast bar, and business center. Both buildings are walkable to restaurants and a leisure path surrounding nearby Eagle Lake.

The two new hotels often have been sold out since their openings, says Dunn Hospitality president and COO David Dunn.

“The community really has taken to our new hotels, and it has exceeded our expectations because we have been so well-received by the community,” he says. “It’s a positive sign we identified the right product for the right area.”

Dunn Hospitality understands their market, positioning Home2 Suites by Hilton to cater to their extended-stay guests like business travelers during the weekdays and families enjoying leisure time on the weekends from sports and concerts to weddings; while recognizing Holiday Inn Express sees more single-night stays.

The two new properties bring the total to four Dunn Hospitality hotels in Evansville. The company’s former East Side Holiday Inn Express has been remodeled into a Country Inn & Suites by Carlson, and it also continues to own and operate a Hampton Inn near the Evansville Regional Airport. Additionally, Dunn Hospitality has a Holiday Inn Express & Suites in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, with a Hilton Garden Inn set to open this summer on Louisville’s east side, at the mall of St. Matthews.

Around the year 2000, Dunn Hospitality had 30 hotels in its portfolio. The group, which continually works to stay ahead of the curve, strategically sold many of the properties in bundles through the years. The company has invested more than $100 million in Evansville hotels alone in its 40-year history, notes John. Dunn Hospitality’s current hotels mostly fall within three brands: Hilton, Marriott, and InterContinental Hotels Group.

“With the quality of the product and the quality of the service, they are a good fit for us,” says David.

Dunn Hospitality has selected Springfield, Missouri-based architecture firm Butler, Rosenbury & Partners for its last 10 hotels, and Hospitality Contract Services of Memphis, Tennessee, has served as its designer for the past 30 years. While the exterior curb appeal of the brand-name hotels must match, Dunn Hospitality can — and does — redesign each interior to make its properties unique. It takes two years for Dunn Hospitality to complete a hotel, from identifying the right type of hotel for the right area to the zoning permits and the design-and-build process, says John.

The quality customer service at Dunn Hospitality hotels also sets them apart, he says.

“Our associates have a love for customer service,” says John, adding there are 250 associates across its hotels and the company currently is hiring. “We pride ourselves on a high level of service.”

About 50 percent of Dunn Hospitality hotel guests are repeat customers, and John credits that to the company’s service philosophy. “The brand may get them in the door the first time, but it’s the experience they have inside that makes them come back a second time,” he says.

Through the years, the Dunns say they have strived to give back to the community that has given so much to them. The business has donated more than $7 million to Evansville-area nonprofits, including United Way, religious organizations, and the region’s universities — University of Evansville and University of Southern Indiana, where David attended, and Oakland City University, John’s alma mater.

“The city has been so good to us, and we are most fortunate to be in a position to give back,” says John.

Christy Gillenwater, president and CEO of Southwest Indiana Chamber in Evansville, says it has been a collective effort to create an increased need for hospitality development, like Dunn’s hotels, across the city.

“It’s extremely exciting to see all the new development underway,” says Gillenwater. “These new hotels help to ensure we can meet current and new demands for hotel stays in the region.”

As for Dunn Hospitality’s future, the company also is reaching for a lofty development goal — planning to return to its peak of 30 hotels by 2020, with new properties coming in Texas and Florida, where it has branch offices. The business also is looking to place more hotels throughout the Midwest, including another property on Evansville’s East Side and more potential hotels in cities such as Indianapolis; Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee; and St. Louis, says David.

“We always are looking for opportunities,” he adds. 

For more information about Dunn Hospitality Group, call 812-471-9300 or visit dunnhospitalitygroup.com.

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