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A delicate balance between business travel, vacationers

Oshkosh Waterfront Hotel currently undergoing renovations, re-opening in April

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March 20, 2024

OSHKOSH — Aiming to meet the needs of casual business travelers and vacationers alike, the Oshkosh Waterfront Hotel & Convention Center, located at 1 N. Main St., is nearing the end of a building-wide renovation project.

But the wait, Zio Pekovic, principal/co-founder of Scarlett Hotel Group — the owner/management company of the Waterfront Hotel — said will be worth it.

“What we saw in Oshkosh and why we are investing in the city, (is) an under-branded property,” he said. “The former brand (Best Western) is a fine brand, but based on the location and the beauty of it being on the water in a visible part of downtown, we immediately saw a great structure with good bones and nice curb appeal — we wanted to do more.”

Though the hotel, which Pekovic said was constructed in the late 1980s, was in sound condition, the management group at Scarlett Hotel decided “it was best to spruce things up.”

“We felt with our experience, we could elevate the guest experience by remodeling the guest rooms and public space and beautifying the restaurant,” he said. “We wanted to have something nicer in town and have it be something that can compete better versus Appleton and Green Bay.”

Currently, Pekovic said the hotel is closed, with an expected re-opening date sometime in early April.

What’s being remodeled?
To stay up-to-date with the changing times and remain a go-to destination, Pekovic said all guest rooms are being completely renovated.

“That’s new carpeting, all new furniture, wall vinyl, paint, lighting, artwork, etc.,” he said. “In some of the bathrooms, the tubs are being converted into walk-in showers because that appeals more to the business traveler. There’s new granite, vanities — the whole nine yards.”

Zio Pekovic said all guest rooms at the Oshkosh Waterfront Hotel are being completely renovated. Submitted Photo

Additionally, Pekovic said the hotel will be more welcoming for guests upon entering.

“The registration area will be much nicer,” he said. “The way the hotel industry is going right now — if you recall back in the day when you’d check in, many registration desks were like this giant wall between you and the person working there. (We will now) have check-in pods — they are a lot more casual and you can see the person you’re talking to. It’s a more pleasant arrival, which is something we focused on in the renovations.”

That aspect of the renovation, Pekovic said, is maybe geared more toward the business traveler.

“Of course, guests on vacation will notice the difference between the old and new, but if you’re a business traveler coming from Minnesota, Chicago or Indianapolis and you are here for a conference, the first five or 10 minutes after parking your car sets the tone for the rest of your stay with us,” he said. “We want to make sure there is a nice sense of arrival.”

Pekovic said the restaurant at the hotel, formerly branded as Ground Round, will also have a new concept.

“The new concept (of the restaurant) will combine the water features and good food,” he said.

A fine balance
Because the hotel is attached to the convention center, which Pekovic said is also managed by Scarlett Group, “it’s a delicate balance” as to how to describe the property.

“Your weekends are more dedicated to vacationers and families who want to come to experience the town and see the sights in this beautiful waterfront setting,” he said. “On the weekdays, we are geared more toward the business traveler. We also have events and weddings on the weekends at the convention center.”

As with any renovation project, Pekovic said, “there are pros and cons and sometimes not everyone is completely happy with things.”

One of those areas is the removal of the hot tub and pool from the hotel.

“Those were small and in an antiquated space,” he said. “We didn’t feel the hot tub and pool were being utilized by our guests (enough to justify keeping them). As we’re elevating the experience, we think we’ll be able to capture more business travel to allow for Oshkosh to compete with that group demand — groups being people coming to conventions, weddings, etc. — larger groups needing 20 or more rooms.”

The registration desk at the Waterfront Hotel is substantially bigger and completely renovated to offer a more welcoming atmosphere. Submitted Photo

Pekovic said he acknowledges that many people, including himself, like hotel pools, “but from a business decision, sometimes it’s not feasible.”

“It’s like a gym (in a hotel) — people have good intentions to use it, but oftentimes, don’t,” he said. “(The hot tub and pool) were there for a long time, but we felt the space would be better to open up for a bigger lobby, etc. The new lobby will also be a great space for people to mingle and socialize — the old lobby wasn’t speaking to that.”

Pekovic said the hot tub and pool space needed to be removed to expand the lobby “to make it more friendly for business travel as well.”

“There will be individual pods, another bar we’re adding and we’ll be opening up the visibility to main street versus the little walkway that was there before,” he said.

For more information on the Oshkosh Waterfront Hotel & Convention Center, find it on Facebook or visit

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