Originally appeared in The Denver Post in March, 2019
Company operates 30 hotels in the state and 60 nationwide after recently taking on three DTC-area properties
An established force in the Colorado hotel industry recently increased its footprint in the Denver metro area it calls home. And while it acknowledges challenges recruiting and retaining workers in the hospitality industry, the company says it welcomes the competition brought on by a certain 1,501-room behemoth in Aurora and is bullish on growing more at a mile high and beyond in the coming years.
Stonebridge Cos. formally announced last month that it had assumed management of a trio or south metro Hyatt hotels: the 135-room Hyatt House Denver Tech Center, the 126-room Hyatt Place Denver Tech Center and the 127-room Hyatt Place Denver-South/Park Meadows.
All told, Stonebridge now manages 30 hotels in Colorado, owning 23 of them. They are part of a 60-property national portfolio with more than 10,000 guests rooms combined.
“We continue to reinvest in Colorado. We are excited about all of Colorado, in particular the Denver (metropolitan statistical area),” Stonebridge chief operating officer Chris Manley said last week during an interview at the Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center, a 230-room hotel inside the former Colorado National Bank building that stands as one of the company’s crown jewels.
“As we travel the country and look at different demand drivers and different economies, I would stack Denver’s economy up with just about anywhere in the country in terms of job growth prospects, tourists that want to be here. The Convention center expansion is spectacular for our business,” said Manley, a Denver native. “There are a lot of positive things going on in Denver and as a result, when we look to our portfolio, Denver comes to the top of the list irrespective of the fact we’re based here.”
Manley’s assertion comes after Provision Living Senior Living Communities released the results of a survey in January that found Denver was the 11th most popular “bucket list” travel destination in America behind established tourist meccas like Honolulu, New York City, Las Vegas and New Orleans. The executive sees a golden age for tourism blossoming, with retiring Baby Boomers roaming, Gen Xers and millennials “willing to spend a disproportionate amount of earnings on travel and experiences,” and growing middle classes in China and India all contributing to a pool of would-be guests.
In addition to its existing portfolio, Stonebridge has some high-profile projects in the works including a dual-brand Hilton project expected to open at 15th and Stout streets downtown in the latter part of this year. Stonebridge is also redeveloping the historic Emily Griffith school campus on Glenarm Place downtown, but Manley said it’s too early to comment on design progress there.
The hospitality industry has plenty of challenges. In a fast developing metro area, new boutique and experience-driven hotels seem to be popping up on every corner. The biggest competitor out there for Stonebridge, literally speaking, is the long-anticipated Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center. The $800-million, 1,501-room complex opened in December with 1.1 million rooms already booked in advance. It competes not only for guests but for workers, requiring 1,500 employees to operate.
Manley, when asked about the Gaylord, called it a great brand and said Stonebridge welcomes the competition.
“It forces us to execute on our commitment to distinguished hospitality for our guests better so that when they come back to Denver, they stay with us again and again and again,” he said. “It also reinforces our commitment to take good care of our team members … so they continue to grow their careers with us.”
Like many industries in Colorado, hospitality has a deep need for workers. Manley says Stonebridge has made recruiting and retaining quality staff a priority, something it focuses on through work with schools such as Metro State University of Denver. That school has a fellowship program through Stonebridge where students can earn credits and pay working in all departments of a company hotel over the course of a semester. The fellowship is named for company founders Rita and Navin Dimond.
It’s hard to say where Stonebridge ranks among private companies in Colorado in terms of its reach in the hotel industry. High-profile competitor Sage Hospitality, operator or properties such as the Crawford Hotel at Union Station, manages 57 properties across the country including 23 in the state.
Amie Mayhew, president and CEO of the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association, said that regardless of size and scale, Stonebridge is an asset to her organization and the larger industry in Colorado. Stonebridge executive Jack Paul is part of the CHLA board.
“They are a well-run, employee-, guest- and industry-focused organization,” she said.
By: Joe Rubino