Manju Prasanna told how he evacuated his wife and their four-year-old daughter after hearing a man shout that his room at the New County Hotel in County Place, Perth, was on fire.
Emergency services were called to the hotel shortly before 5.10am on Monday. A total of 21 ambulance crews were called to the scene, while more than 60 fire fighters were fighting the blaze at its peak.
Mr Prasanna who was staying on the first floor of the hotel – one floor below where the fire broke out - said they were woken by a fellow guest.
The 38-year-old, who is from Sri Lanka, was visiting his wife, who is studying at Dundee University.
The family left the building and saw flames coming from the second floor window.
"I waited here, me my daughter and my wife - my daughter was afraid and she was crying loudly," he said.
Police Scotland confirmed that other hotel guests had been evacuated, as well as two people from neighbouring properties. Eleven people were given treatment at the scene by ambulance workers.
Officers remained at the hotel on Tuesday and cordons are in place around the area.
Tents which had been put in place by emergency services outside the hotel have been removed, and inside the building investigators in hard hats could be seen.
Blue plastic sheeting covered windows on the top floor of the building.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.described it as a “sad and shocking incident”.
She said: “My deepest condolences are with the bereaved and my thoughts with all those involved.
“I am also hugely grateful to the firefighters who responded and to our other emergency services.”
Perth and Kinross Provost Xander McDade said: “On behalf of all councillors and staff, our thoughts are with the family and friends of the three people who passed away following the fire at the New County Hotel.
“This tragic incident is not the way any of us would want to see 2023 begin and my heartfelt condolences go to everyone impacted by this fire.”
Deputy First Minister John Swinney described the fatalities as “heart-breaking news”.
Mr Swinney, the MSP for Perthshire North, tweeted: “My sympathies with all affected by this tragedy.”
Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service have launched a joint investigation into the incident.
Jason Sharp, the fire service’s area commander, said it was a “very complex incident”.
It emerged yesterday that recent reviews for the three star hotel included claims that rooms were freezing with broken heating, while others described the carpets on stairs and in corridors as “lethal”.
Numerous people who stayed in recent months said they had been unable to stay at the hotel after seeing their rooms and had left to check into alternative accommodation.