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Snapshot: State College hotelier Mark Morath and his staff are garnering big accolades

by on August 01, 2018 1:18 PM

When you’re a guest at Days Inn Penn State, you might not realize that the handsome, gray-haired, soft-spoken gentleman fixing a new pot of coffee in the lobby is actually Hotelier of the Year and operator and owner of the grandest Day’s Inn in the world. But small daily acts like this one shape Mark Morath’s philosophy of hospitality and his company’s ultimate success.

Morath is the founder of Hospitality Asset Management Co., which has managed hotels since the early 1990s. And he has reason to be proud of his company. It recently received the award Premier Hotelier of the Year from Choice Hotels, a global company with more than 6,800 hotels in more than 35 countries. It’s the second major award this year. In April, Days Inn Penn State was named 2017 Hotel of the Year by the Wyndham Hotel Group. The location also won Hotel of the Year last year, making it the first to win the honor in back-to-back years.

Upon walking in, it’s easy to see why. The entrance itself boasts an open three-story atrium, conference space, and bustling restaurant. Not only does one feel welcomed, but it’s also easy to feel enthusiastic about the decision to invest in one’s stay here.

Morath explains, “The Days Inn brand has some misconceptions about it. It started out as a roadside motor inn-type brand that is very transient. Days Inns have transformed to being far more than that and have been recognized in communities as a real-life hotel.”

The Days Inn Penn State isn’t the only one of Morath’s properties to have received accolades this year. The Carnegie Inn and Spa achieved the posh AAA’s Four Diamonds Award in May.

Hospitality Asset Management Company took over operations of the Carnegie in 2008.

“The Carnegie had great roots,” explains Morath. “The ownership brought in some additional partners and at that time they started to consider the expansion, which they did a couple years after. They asked our group to be the management of the Carnegie and we loved the idea. We enjoy being part of that quality level. It elevates our firm as we try to do our job with them.

"HAMCO was one of few hoteliers to volunteer to be a beta tester for new initiatives for the Quality Inn brand and was an early supporter of Choice’s Ascend brand of boutique, unique or historic hotels when it joined with the Carnegie Inn and Spa."

The past year, The Carnegie Inn & Spa was named by AAA as among the top 25 percent of those Four Diamond properties.

“These are compliments first to the quality of that property,” Morath says. “This is how we want it to be projected and managed and thought of by the guests.”

When pressed about the accomplishments of his company, he nods at his staff, as well as the State College community for providing the atmosphere and the quality of guests his establishments receive.

“We’ve changed over the years,” Morath says. “We used to go and find expert performers that could do a certain job. Now we find expert people who have personalities and a caring attitude and can forge certain relationships with our customers, and then we train them as much as we can to perform the function of their job. And what that does for us is create a community and a family of caring people who agree that they want to serve the guests. I’ve always had this company philosophy in essence – you have to be fair, you have to care, you have to be incredibly honest, you must use common sense, and you can’t be grumpy.

“Everything we’ve ever accomplished, falls into one of those categories,” explains Morath. “It’s not out of a book and not out of manual, but we are trying to project that culture in everything that we do. Certainly the guest is our key.”

And making sure the coffee’s hot and fresh in the lobby is a perfect example of his philosophy at work.

Today, HAMCO, also known as Lion Country Lodging, employs more than 500 people throughout central Pennsylvania, where it has 11 hotels. It also operates four restaurants attached to its hotels – Gigi’s Southern Table and Carnegie House in State College; 1794 The Whiskey Rebellion in Carlisle; and CH Fields in Indiana, Pennsylvania.

Going forward, the company plans to grow with two more hotels this year – a Comfort Suites in Camp Hill and a dual-branded Wingate and Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham in Parsippany, New Jersey, which will be the first of its kind in the country.

“All of our establishments have been awarded in some fashion,” Morath says with a smile. “And we like that.”

Kristina Guthrie is a contributing writer for Town&Gown.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct certain details.


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