Well-known local physician and entrepreneur Dr. Paresh Desai has purchased the Best Western Crystal River Resort for $6.7 million and is making changes to appeal to the sought-after millennial tourist market.
Crystal River Mayor Joe Meek said the sale, which closed last week, is great news for the city and expands visitors’ experiences.
Located at 614 Northwest U.S. 19, near Crackers Restaurant, the two-story Best Western has 114 rooms and has been owned by Darryl Seaton for the last 25 years. Seaton will stay on as consultant-manager.
Desai said he wants to cater not only to baby boomers but those aged 23-38. Studies show millennials are seeking different activities when they travel and stay in lodgings. They don’t just want to stay in their room and watch television.
To that end, Desai said he is exploring the use of a water taxi service that will take visitors in a pontoon-type boat from the hotel, over to the new U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service headquarters off King’s Bay, to other hotels, to Port Paradise (which he owns and is planning to renovate) and then King’s Bay before heading back to the Best Western.
He hopes to start that up as early as November. More details will be announced.
“(Darryl and I) have known each other for many years," Desai said. "We made a deal and he will be a consultant. We have a vision.”
Meek said the city will work with Desai and is already in discussions with him about other ventures.
“This is very exciting news for Crystal River,” Meek said. “You’re seeing a continued investment happen in the city with a whole bunch of initiatives and investments.”
Meek said he is particularly excited about the water taxi idea because it will complement the city’s trolley service and enhance the visitors’ experience when they visit Crystal River. There may be a way of forming partnerships with others in the city to tie in both services.
“I think the opportunity is huge,” he said.
Meek said he is appreciative for what Seaton has done for the city during his long tenure at the hotel and his community work. Desai’s reputation and commitment, he said, makes this whole development that much more appealing.
The Seaton family bought the Best Western in 1994. Seaton said it was always in the family’s long-term plans to someday transition away from the hotel into other ventures.
“It’s a natural transition,” Seaton said. “We’ve been talking about it.”
When Desai approached him, Seaton said it was a great choice given the physician’s commitment to the community.
“It was a great transition and a great transaction,” he said. “It was a pleasure to sell to someone who is in the community and is going to do some great things.”
Seaton, who sits on the Citrus County Tourist Development Council, said he’s going to be just fine.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said.