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Top Company 2023: Tourism & Hospitality

WINNER 

Holidaily Brewing Co.

Golden, CO

Website: holidailybrewing.com

As part of its Top Company application, Holidaily Brewing Co. was asked about its future business goals. “World domination!” the Golden-based brewer boldly responded. “We want to be the leader and obvious choice for gluten-free beer.” 

The seven-year-old company is off to a good start on that ambition. Founded by Chief Brewista Karen Hertz, Holidaily is the only woman-owned gluten-free brewer in the U.S. as well as the largest gluten-free brewer in the country. 

Holidaily also is a three-time Great American Beer Festival Medal winner and recently won a World Beer Cup Silver Medal. 

The 28-employee company engages with the community through monthly fundraisers called “Raise a Pint, Lend a Hand” on the last Thursday of every month. On those days, Holidaily donates 10 percent of taproom sales to a local nonprofit, selecting organizations that align with Holidaily’s vision, which is to celebrate a life of health and happiness. 

To make its beer, Holidaily sources local gluten-free certified grain (buckwheat and millet); its total cost of producing a beer is five to seven times that of a traditional beer. The company does its own packaging onsite and pays for a gluten-free certification, which requires stringent tracking, testing, training, audits and procedures. 

Since opening in 2016, Holidaily has experienced more than 1,500 percent revenue growth; since 2019, sales have more than doubled, and they’re projected to increase another 13 percent year-over year in 2023. 

FINALISTS 

Footers Catering

Arvada, CO

Website: footerscatering.com

In business for 41 years, Footers caters more than 700 events a year and feeds more than 75,000 guests annually. The company’s in-house hospitality team specializes in cooking fresh onsite at locations across Colorado.  

The hospitality industry is typically plagued by high turnover, staff shortages and a scarcity of growth positions. In response, Footers has created a culture to attract inspired, motivated people who love what they do and retain them by providing professional development opportunities within all levels of the Footers team. Examples include an event coordinator evolving into a venue specialist manager, or a prep chef being promoted to the tasting chef team.   

In 2019, Footers owners Anthony and April Lambatos launched a sister business called MIBE, an acronym for part of Footers Mission Statement to “Make It Better Everyday.” Through MIBE, Footers offers a yearly conference for companies in the hospitality industry that seek to further develop their company culture, improve their employee engagement, empower their teams to embrace innovation, and commit to heartfelt leadership. 

The Lambatos’ belief in Footers was put to a supreme test in 2020 when they decided to go ahead with construction of a new 40,000-square-foot facility despite the devasting impacts of COVID on the entire hospitality industry – including a 70 percent drop in business for Footers. 

Their faith was rewarded, as construction on the new headquarters was completed in February 2021, and revenues have rebounded to levels far surpassing even pre-pandemic numbers. 

International Jet Aviation

Centennial, CO

Website: internationaljet.com

In business for 44 years, International Jet Aviation is an aircraft charter company serving private families, businesses and emergency/medical response teams. 

The charter aircraft industry has undergone significant changes over the years, and International Jet has evolved, too. The company started out transporting mail, checks and various types of cargo. It now specializes in executive transportation and, while it has strived to maintain a small-company atmosphere, it is one of the largest charter operations in Denver and the Rocky Mountain region. 

International Jet was founded in 1979 by William Milam and Lynn Krogh. In 1989, Brian Smith joined the organization and became a partner. Smith is now International Jet’s president; Milam is chairman emeritus. The partners’ combined aviation experience exceeds 100 years. 

“Our fleet of aircraft is centrally located and provides unparalleled service to the Rocky Mountain states with very few competitors in the region,” the company says. 

International Jet’s staff of about 60 professionals includes mechanics, pilots, aircraft fuelers and detailers. One enduring priority: safety. 

ATJ (Asia Transpacific Journeys)

Boulder, CO

Website: atj.com

Founded in the basement of a Boulder home in 1987, ATJ is an award-winning travel agency and tour operator that has coordinated or directed trips to more than 35 countries. 

The “core team” of the 18-employee company has been with ATJ for 17 years on average. 

“We attract very smart and interesting staff members,” says CEO and co-owner Kirsten Louy-Nasty, who has been with ATJ 24 years. “We take a lot of time to onboard new staff and nurture those already with us.” 

Likewise, the CEO and co-owner says, “We attract exceptional clientele who want to visit markets and temples, take a cooking class, understand spirituality, and meet local people in real time to experience their lives. We are always there, real people, helping others experience the trip of a lifetime.” 

The company’s charitable arm, the ATJ Foundation, has contributed to numerous causes over the years, including the “Have You Herd” elephant rescue and awareness campaign in 2020-21, Myanmar relief for legal aid and humanitarian needs in 2021, the Nepal earthquake in 2015, Sri Lanka flooding in 2017, and many others.  

ATJ changed ownership in 2014 when founder Marilyn Downing retired, passing the torch to employee-owners Donna Galland, the company’s CFO; Eric Kareus, director of travel; and Louy-Nasty. 

“We pride ourselves on being experts in Asia and the Pacific,” Louy-Nasty says.  

Game Plan for Safe Hospitality: Protecting Patrons During the 2023 Broncos Season and Beyond

The start of the 2023 Broncos season — kicking off September 10 against the Raiders — signals traffic that hospitality establishments like bars and restaurants just don’t see over summer. It’s a fact that football season can get rowdy. Unsurprisingly, a survey of NFL fans shows one-third of all NFL fans surveyed report “pregaming” before kickoff, while Denver Broncos fans lead the pack, drinking an average of eight drinks before the game. 

While businesses in the hospitality industry provide a fun and relaxed atmosphere for clientele to briefly escape their everyday routines, it’s also their responsibility to keep their patrons safe. As we all know, excessive drinking can lead to altercations on-site (a fifth of fans admitted they’d gotten into a verbal spat with someone before a game), physical harm to oneself and others, and lead to widespread issues once a patron has left an establishment. 

Ahead of this year’s football season, Society Insurance, which provides coverage to the hospitality industry, has put together the top four tips on how a restaurant and/or bar can protect themselves, their patrons and their employees as well as create a safer environment for football season and beyond.

READ: How MLB Rule Changes Are Reshaping Baseball and Businesses in Denver

Don’t be afraid to refuse service 

Make sure your bartenders know when to stop serving patrons. Potential signs of an intoxicated person include loud or agitated speech, ordering drinks rapidly, slurred speech, stumbling, spilling drinks, appearing drowsy, aggressive behavior and/or bloodshot eyes. Don’t cut anyone off in front of others if you can help it. The manager should request the person to accompany him or her off to the side or a somewhat quieter place to break the news (but never alone. Take a buddy). Keep it calm and state the facts. Do not be accusatory or aggressive. “I think you should call it a night. We are not serving you anymore. Do you have a ride, or can I call you a car?” Instruct your bartenders to not serve the patron anymore. Don’t negotiate.

Double down on conflict resolution

Each patron who enters your establishment brings different ideas, interpersonal skill sets, prejudices and emotions with them. Add alcohol to the situation and your business is at an increased risk of an incident. Eventually, conflict can happen. Shockingly, the average cost of a bar fight claim is $109,678.25 (based on Society Insurance information). This ranges from a few hundred dollars for some altercations to up to several million dollars for a single altercation. This can dramatically impact the bottom line for bar owners, which is why conflict resolution training is critical for bar owners and staff. 

Recommended conflict resolution techniques include:

  1. Capable door staff in place. The door staff is the first point of contact for patrons. They are among the first who have the task of determining if guests are of a proper age to enter and do not show signs of intoxication. They can also monitor for conflicts that may already be developing between customers before they enter. The actions you take at this point can resolve a potential conflict before it ever arrives. 
  2. Closely monitor alcohol service. Bartenders can help minimize the risk of a conflict developing by monitoring alcohol service using drink counting methods, observing patron physical and cognitive behaviors, pouring accurately measured drinks to avoid over-service and employing a good cut-off policy.
  3. Remain vigilant, especially during peak hours. Security and floor staff see what is happening throughout the operation. They are the eyes and ears of the operation and get the best view of what might be bubbling up throughout the night. This is when good conflict resolution skills can help to step in, de-escalate and manage the situation.
  4. Implement comprehensive standard operating procedures and policies. The owner and management team can provide proper training to all staff including conflict resolution skill development training. Don’t overlook implementing good policies and procedures for the staff to act on, such as a strong cut-off policy, effective ID and non-entry policy, patron ejection policy, training and exercise for emergency situations, use of force policies and more. Provide regular training to ensure the staff possesses a clear understanding. Having the proper policies and training in place will help to minimize the impact of a conflict and maximize the effectiveness of everyone’s response when an issue arises.

READ: Speed and Weed — How Does Colorado Feel About Driving While Stoned?

Obtain liquor liability insurance

It is highly advisable to purchase liquor liability insurance if you operate a business that sells alcohol. It’s no secret that alcohol service creates unique risks and exposure. Liquor liability insurance is critical for costly claims and litigation that arise because of alcohol service and damage or injury caused by an intoxicated person. Even if your bar is not liable in these complicated situations, your legal defense costs can add up quickly.

Preparation, good policies and good training help to minimize incidents all year long. By obtaining proper insurance coverage, understanding Dram laws, refusing service when applicable and practicing conflict resolution training, you and your staff will be more empowered to safely address challenges that arise during holidays, sports’ seasons and other celebrations. 

 

This information is provided as a convenience for informational purposes only. It is provided to assist you in recognizing potential unsafe work problems or conditions and not to establish compliance with any law, rule or regulation. This information does not constitute legal or professional advice. For a legal opinion, please seek legal counsel from a qualified attorney.

Top Company 2022: Tourism and Hospitality

The outpouring of applications for this year’s Top Company awards is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of enterprises that do business in the state. Applications for the 35th annual awards numbered in the hundreds, and it was particularly encouraging to see so many companies rebounding from two years of COVID restrictions, with most posting revenue and employee gains approaching—and in some cases, exceeding—pre-pandemic numbers.

This year’s Top Company winners and finalists represent 13 industry categories, plus a startup category for companies in business less than four years. Entrants were judged on three criteria: outstanding achievement, financial performance and community involvement. The judging panel was made up of ColoradoBiz magazine’s editorial board and two representatives from the business community.

 

Winner — Travelers Haven

Denver

Travelers Haven
Travelers Haven Team Photo

Whether it is a first responder flying across the country to assist on a natural disaster or a technical consultant placed on a project, the need to house nomadic workers is on the rise, and Travelers Haven is at the forefront of that.  

Travelers Haven strives to secure the best housing at the best rates, and manages every aspect of the short-term housing process to save clients’ money, time and stress, offering a complete suite of tools and features to inform and optimize every housing program.  

In 2021, Travelers Haven placed almost 6,000 workers in more than 2,500 locations with an average stay of four months. As of June 2022, Travelers Haven had seen a 25% growth increase over 2021 and is projected to outperform 2020’s revenue by 40%, which would mark this year as the company’s strongest period of growth since its inception 14 years ago.

Finalist — Footers

Arvada

Footers
Footers Catering provides a special Mediterranean Shrimp dish at an event

After monumental obstacles as a result of COVID-19, Footers rebounded impressively in 2021 and is set to continue on an upward trajectory well past 2022. 

“The hit our business took in 2020 was unlike anything the company had ever experienced in 40 years of business,” the firm shared in its Top Company application. “Like so many hospitality companies, due to the restrictions on gatherings, our revenue at Footers dropped 70%.” 

That set the stage for a dramatic comeback for the longtime caterer. In 2021, Footers served more than 450 events and more than 57,000 guests. Meanwhile, the company completed arguably its boldest undertaking yet: the opening of Social Capitol in Arvada. The venue boasts 20,000 feet of event space, a mezzanine, and a 20-foot customizable bar.  

To Footers, the completion of Social Capitol was not just a grand accomplishment, it was proof that the company’s owners would do anything to support their vision and invest in the catering business in a time of uncertainty.  

Construction was set to break ground in March 2020, and owners April and Anthony Lambatos faced the critical decision of whether to move forward with the development or not. Their decision proved motivational to the entire team. Going ahead with the plan underscored their belief that when the catering business returned, Footers would be poised to serve with the same standards of excellence that had been its hallmark for 40 years, but with even more resources. 

Footers forecasts 100% revenue growth over the next two years compared with 2021. 

Finalist — Harvest Hosts

Vail

Harvest Host 3537 Karen Blue Montavons Berries
Enjoying one of Harvest Host’s beautiful Colorado locations

Harvest Hosts is a unique membership club for RVers that allows access to stays at more than 6,600 locations across North America. The locations range from farms to golf courses to breweries and everything in between. When these property owners or managers register as a host, they earn extra income and — perhaps even more beneficial — they provide an environment for helping to uplift and support small businesses around them. 

“On average, each host garners an additional $13,000 in revenue each year from Harvest Hosts members, with some even earning more than $50,000 in additional revenue,” the company says. 

Despite the company’s national reach, CEO Joel Holland makes sure that Colorado still holds a special place in Harvest Hosts’ heart. Harvest sponsors the annual Vail Rotary Club Duck Race, the marquee event and largest fundraiser of the year for the club. Holland is also the vice president of Vail Mountain Rescue and is an active member of the rescue team, totaling an impressive 49 missions over the last two years.

CHOW, Wellness for Hospitality: Let’s Talk About It

I looked like a successful chef … well-traveled, featured on TV and in magazines, engaged in community events. Any observer might have seen me and thought that I was living the dream; but the truth was that my life was ruining my life.

It’s not uncommon for folks who work in restaurants to forego their own health and wellness for the sake of creating unbeatable experiences for diners and generating profits for restaurant owners. I was no exception.

In the name of this service to others — the “more, more, more! now, now, now!” culture of hospitality — I worked too much, slept too little, drank too often, and isolated myself from “civilians,” those not in the service industry. I began to feel hopeless that I would ever find a more balanced way to live, work, or be a human ‘being’ rather than a human ‘doing’ while working in restaurants.

When I was nearly at my breaking point, I turned to the restaurant owner at the time and said, “I don’t know how long I can go on like this.” But he didn’t have anything useful to offer me, he told me to “just take some time off.” As if that was an option in an industry that’s been understaffed, not just for years, but decades. I shouldn’t have expected better. He was my boss, after all, not a therapist; and he lived the same unmanageable lifestyle I did.

What I wished he could have done was point me to a group like CHOW — Culinary Hospitality Outreach and Wellness.

That’s what I found when I joined CHOW … I was reminded that I’m stronger, smarter, and more dimensional than I give myself credit for; that I’m not just some misfit pirate, but rather a member of a fantastic community of artisans, tradesmen, and craftspeople.

Chefs Working in KitchenBut nothing like CHOW existed six years ago. I needed someone in the industry, in similar circumstances, to tell me it was okay to not be okay, and that, in fact, I didn’t have to “suck it up and keep going.” I needed someone who was willing to listen and share their own path through the chaos of industry life; not encourage me to ‘just be grateful’ that I had a job. What I needed was someone who had, themselves, gotten real help and could help me see a new way forward, too.

That’s what I found when I joined CHOW. Industry professionals and vets who understood. I didn’t get empty encouragement. I wasn’t told that I needed to quit my job to recover from the effects of it. I was reminded that I’m stronger, smarter, and more dimensional than I give myself credit for; that I’m not just some misfit pirate, but rather a member of a fantastic community of artisans, tradesmen, and craftspeople.

CHOW started in 2018 after an article ran about John Hinman, Denver pie maker and founder of CHOW, alerting to mental health stresses in hospitality (no coincidence, also at the loss of Anthony Bourdain). The industry responded, initially through in-person meetings and shifting to virtual meetings over the pandemic (getting even more reach), collectively joining in numbers over the years in a safe space to share stories of pain, recovery, and improved mental health.

Photo of chef leader in the workplace
CHOW offers six weekly hybrid or virtual meetings (four mixed groups, one for all women, and one for Spanish speakers), which are attended mostly by Coloradans, though it’s not unusual to have someone pop in from Spain, England, Canada, or Australia.

Today, CHOW offers six weekly hybrid or virtual meetings (four mixed groups, one for all women, and one for Spanish speakers), which are attended mostly by Coloradans, though it’s not unusual to have someone pop in from Spain, England, Canada, or Australia. These discussion groups allow people like me to pause, reconsider what matters, and create community outside of the workplaces.

CHOW has guest speakers span from Johnson & Wales alums to farming professionals, including life coaches sparking conversations with the help of Event Producer Lara Smedley. CHOW also offers a free, industry specific, mental health course for folks who want to know how to take better care of themselves, their coworkers, and others.

When attendees need more than peer support, CHOW connects them with community-based resources, such as KHESED Wellness. Through partnerships like this, CHOW has been able to extend more than 700 hours of free mental health counseling to hospitality workers since 2020.

So we don’t lose anyone else to suicide, addiction or struggles surrounding mental health — CHOW supports the mental health, recovery, and wellness needs of service industry workers. If you’d like to do the same, come join us! You can also volunteer or donate by heading to the website below.

 

Coming soon:
We’re creating a list of actionable tools that folks can use easily and for little to no cost in their daily work and home lives. We hope to have them compiled soon and will share them on our social media, newsletter, and blog. If anyone is doing something at their workplace that is working, please share with us so each business doesn’t have to recreate the wheel, to Erin Boyle, executive director, [email protected].

Lastly, we’ve just finished writing a workbook that is designed for the hospitality industry to use either in addition to meetings and therapy, on their own, or with friends. We hope the tools will help everyone have a well-rounded healthy life. These will be ready by mid July 2022.

Chow LogoCHOW Website
Instagram @chow_org
Twitter @chow_org
Facebook @choworg
and Facebook @groups/choworg

 

High Country Conundrum

The ability to work from anywhere and a shift by property owners to rent short-term rather than long-term has made it so difficult for people in mountain towns to secure housing that businesses in those communities are having a tough time finding employees.

Retailers, restaurants and other businesses are restricting their hours and even closing their doors completely several days a week because they can’t find enough people to serve their customers.

New,york,city,,usa, ,october,30,,2017:,man,chef

The problem puts resort towns in jeopardy of providing substandard services to the tourists who are the lifeblood of Colorado’s economy — if they stop coming to the state because they’ve had a bad experience, it could be tough to get them back.

“If you go into any resort community and walk down Main Street, you’ll see a huge number of help-wanted signs,” said Margaret Bowes, executive director of the Colorado Association of Ski Towns. “It’s hard to find any employer — whether it’s a resort or local government or a retail shop or restaurant — that isn’t looking for employees. It all comes down to housing.”

Employers may receive dozens of applications from potential workers, but the number gets whittled down quickly when they ask applicants whether they’ve secured housing. Not only is housing unavailable in the towns were employees work, it’s also difficult to find in the so-called bedroom communities.

“Escalating real estate values are making so prices are so high that it’s just unattainable for many people working locally,” Bowes said. “When a starter home is approaching $1 million, it’s hard to get into the real estate market.”

What’s come to be known as the Great Resignation — dissatisfied workers quitting their jobs — coupled with baby boomers aging out of the workforce also is impacting the ability of businesses to hire workers. The restrictions on hiring immigrants is just another factor adding to the conundrum.

Modern,,luxury,apartment,building

“We’ve relied on a lot of immigrants covering a lot of really hard work that it’s hard to find locals to do,” said Jon Stavney, director of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, an association run by leaders of six counties and 30 towns. “We continue to not have a plan related to economic development and immigration. We treat it as a cultural issue. We don’t have meat-packing plants in the high country, but we do have the construction industry and hospitality that isn’t always glamorous and front-facing. We are not settled nationally about immigration and our need for it, and it hurts.”

Sue Stillwell, office manager of excavation business Stan Miller Inc., said the company is probably short 10 people because of the housing shortage — and Stan Miller pays well.

“It’s definitely a problem with new people coming to the area,” she said. “We’ll put an ad in the paper nationwide and have people who really want to live in Breckenridge, and then they get here and can’t find a place.”

Hotel,concierge

Many other employers are in the same boat. Advertisements in the Summit Daily News for Summit Stage shuttle drivers offer applicants a $1,000 signing bonus; wages starting at $23.93 per hour; paid training and a $250 end-of-training bonus; year-round bonus opportunities up to $1,200 per year; and benefits including health insurance, vision, dental and retirement.

Stillwell, who owns a home in Fairplay and rents an apartment in Breckenridge to be closer to her office, keeps an eye on the Summit County real estate just in case there’s an opportunity to purchase something at a reasonable price. She recently saw a listing for a 1,073-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath home built in 1994 in Frisco for $889,000.

“The HOA dues are astronomical — they’re $474 a month,” she said.

“Escalating real estate values are making so prices are so high that it’s just unattainable for many people working locally.” -Margaret Bowes, executive director of the Colorado Association of Ski Towns

Skiers,on,the,slope,,skiing,resort,jasna,,slovakia

Lack of workers resulting from escalating real estate prices has most mountain communities trying figure out how to balance the need for housing for local employees and the desire of people with second homes in the mountains to rent them out on a short-term basis.

The potential solutions are all over the board, and many jurisdictions asked voters to weigh in by answering ballot questions during the November 2021 election. In Avon, for example, voters overwhelmingly approved a 2 percent short-term retail tax to fund community housing. While voters in Telluride rejected capping short-term rental licenses at 400, which would have cut the number in half, they approved capping the licenses at the current level for two years and doubling license fees, which are dedicated to an affordable housing fund.

“There are a lot of different approaches,” Bowes said. “We’re not going to be able to build our way out of this — there just isn’t the available land owned by the local governments to build workforce housing.”

Keystone,,colorado,,usa February,22,,2015.,ski,resort,at,the,end

While there was much speculation that the increased crowds, parking impacts and other effects of having more people that normal in mountain communities was a result of part-time owners occupying their homes during the pandemic, “The Mountain Migration Report” from the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments examining the impacts of COVID on housing and services found that the population surge and crowds were instead caused by:

  • Newcomers moving in and either buying or renting
  • Growth in demand for and use of homes for a month or a season
  • Visitors who stayed in lodging, short- and mid-term rentals or camped in the backcountry
  • Residents and visitors alike staying for consistent and longer stretches, rather than only visiting the mountains on weekends and holidays
  • Year-round residents traveling out of the area less frequently during COVID
  • Day trippers and drive-in traffic seeking relief from COVID isolation
  • Part-time residents occupying their homes full time

“We have had an influx of newcomers that have had a significant impact on our housing market — both rental and ownership,” Stavney said. “Many are working while they’re visiting and are here for longer than the average visitor.”

Aerial,view,of,construction,worker,in,construction,site

And because those people are able to work jobs based in other locations remotely, their income isn’t tied to the mountain economy. They also tend to make more money than mountain locals, who on average make less than $150,000 per year.

All of this combines to make it nearly impossible for people who are employed in a resort town to live in the same community in which they work as home prices reached record highs and rents increased 20 percent to 40 percent in just one year, according to the report.

“Availability of homes for rent and purchase plummeted to critical levels in many communities,” the report states. “Newcomers with significantly higher incomes than year-round residents more often won the competition for scarce housing units.”

5 hospitality design trends for 2022

3d,rendering,luxury,lobby,hotel

As travel returns, and the hunger for exploration grows, the hospitality industry is opening its arms to an influx of travelers with new perspectives.

Creative designs inspired by altered points of view and the evolution of how we approach leisure are delivering new shared experiences between travelers and locals everywhere. 

Here are five design elements we see emerging in 2022 and beyond: 

1. Reducing the Impact of Black Screens  

Escape from ubiquitous screens—they’re in the living room, the bedroom, the office and in your pocket. Instead of surrounding guests with bigger screens throughout their hotel experience, we’re seeking to reduce the audio and visual noise from gathering spaces.

Screen Shot 2021 12 15 At 11636 Pm
Acoustically sealed and private escape pods at the recently reimagined Downtown Denver Sheraton provide a space for a quiet moment away.

This means less TVs and more zones that foster authentic, organic human interaction. Whether it’s gathering around a fireplace with friends or enjoying a cup of coffee in a setting conducive to people watching, we have a unique opportunity to design welcoming, inclusive settings that bring people together and incite them to smile at their neighbors.  

At the recently renovated Downtown Denver Sheraton, a large fireplace anchors the top of the escalators and creates an enhanced opportunity for organic interaction between guests. Private, acoustically sealed, felted phone booths offer business travelers an option for privacy and a quiet moment away when they need it.   

Screen Shot 2021 12 15 At 10721 Pm
The fireplace at the newly renovated Downtown Denver Sheraton anchors the top of the escalators in the lobby and enhances the space with warmth, providing a comfortable and inviting gathering space 

We can still reduce the noise of a space by strategically placing screens sparingly. For example, at the Sheraton one TV is set in a unique spot on a raised platform that separates itself from the main gathering area. The platform and surrounding glass partitions create the effect of a room within a room, keeping the large screen detached from the communal tables in the lobby.   

People will be drawn to gathering spaces that bring them together and offer an escape from the always-on remote culture. After spending so much time at home, hospitality venues are eager to provide this much needed change of scenery and are delivering memorable experiences that will entice their guests to keep exploring.  

2. Bringing The Outside In and the Inside Out 

With restaurant dining rooms spilling into parking spaces and reclaiming side streets for dining and strolling, more and more traditionally indoor venues are exploring ways to permanently activate public and private zones outside.

Screen Shot 2021 12 15 At 11721 Pm
Kachina Bar at the Maven opens to the street extending the space out into the neighborhood. 

To successfully bring the outside in and the inside out, creativity, ingenuity and collaboration is tantamount.  

At the Moxy in Cherry Creek, an upscale neighborhood just south of Downtown Denver, we had to think outside the box to provide comfortable outdoor gathering spaces. Adhering to tight zoning restrictions, we utilized the sloped roof of the lower-level parking access ramp to create a stepped biergarten with multiple fire features, an outdoor bar and tiered seating. The result is an intimate private courtyard that fits seamlessly into the tight 125 x 90-foot site of the hotel.  

Screen Shot 2021 12 15 At 11846 Pm
A stepped biergarten with multiple fire features, an outdoor bar and tiered seating at The Moxy in Cherry Creek creatively utilizes limited space for outdoor activation. 

Designers and city planners have a responsibility to make these outdoor expansions traditionally reserved for cars and public transit something that adds to the street experience.

As the hospitality industry aims to reclaim the outdoors from the automobile for diners and passersby, uniform standards need to be established, so our streets don’t become cluttered in a hodgepodge of temporary solutions.

The last two years have shown us how these spaces have the capacity to enhance the streetscape, and intentional, alluring solutions are the next design opportunity.  

3. Finding The Perfect Light 

As more connections to nature are blended into indoor areas, establishing the perfect lighting is becoming even more top of mind. Attention to light both indoors and out is an important aspect of our experience. Artificial light that dims and brightens with the daylight will aid in creating that ambience.  

Screen Shot 2021 12 15 At 11944 Pm
Floor-to-ceiling windows allow natural sunlight to be the main light source at the City Park Clubhouse at Denver’s City Park Golf Course.  

At the new City Park Clubhouse at Denver’s City Park Golf Course, the floor-to-ceiling windows and curvilinear form of the clubhouse not only accentuate the course’s iconic views of the Denver skyline and Rocky Mountain peaks, they maximize daylight in the bar, dining room and event spaces. The vast expanses of west facing glass allows natural light to be the main light source for the majority of the clubhouse.   

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Operable glazed partitions of the main gathering space in the Downtown Denver Sheraton allow natural light to be borrowed from room to room.

And in the lobby of the Downtown Denver Sheraton, thoughtfully designed glass dividers were used in the main interior gathering space allowing natural light to be borrowed from room to room. Capturing as much daylight as possible through windows, courtyards and skylights is critical to our internal clocks and circadian rhythms. We’re leaning more and more on cues from natural light to regulate time of day and translating that to the setting of every gathering space we design. 

4. A Focus On Wellness 

As we become more in tune with our overall mental and physical wellness, place makers are giving attention to creating environments that nurture its users.

As architects and interior designers, we have an opportunity to influence the atmosphere of the spaces we live in and visit.

By prioritizing everything from indoor air quality, access to the outdoors and natural light, optimal thermal comfort, and designated areas for fitness, every new space we create needs to be refreshing and energizing both physically and mentally.  

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Seamlessly connected to its surroundings in Denver’s upscale Cherry Creek neighborhood, the contemporary yet timeless design of the luxury residences at The Laurel captures fresh air, views and an abundance of daylight. 

The International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI™) delivers the cutting-edge WELL Building Standard™, a global rating system focused on the ways that buildings – and everything in them— can improve our comfort and enhance our health and wellness. Achieving WELL certification is now becoming an important topic of discussion during the earliest phases of project planning. 

5. Enhancing The Experience 

The value of travel is shifting. Traveling for business meetings that can happen virtually has lost its value, while traveling for leisure and refreshment has become more alluring than ever. These two opposite ends of travel will come together with business travelers wanting to extend their trips, so they can enjoy the opportunity to truly experience a place and revel in the change of scenery. 

As people jump at the chance to explore new destinations, their stay away from home needs to deliver a memorable escape that rejuvenates their mind, body and soul. When hotels are treated as a gateway to the neighborhoods they reside in, we allow travelers to become fully immersed in the local culture and activity of the destinations they visit. 

For example, by encouraging engagement with the bustling activity of Denver’s 16th Street pedestrian mall, the dynamic new porte-cochère at the Downtown Denver Sheraton creates a definitive arrival experience for travelers and locals alike.

And at the Halcyon in Cherry Creek, guests revel in the experience of visiting a wealthy, cosmopolitan friend’s home with design elements like: a front desk made to feel like a luxury kitchen, a lobby styled as an intimate living room with a large marble fireplace and a “gear garage” stocked with longboards, bikes and scooters for day use. 

And at The Ramble Hotel in Denver’s vibrant and gritty RiNo Art District, the authentic design, materials and craftsmanship enhance the experience for both overnight guests and local visitors.

Another example of accentuating a neighborhood’s history and creative culture, the combination of the façade and interior details – including an upstairs bar that channels a speakeasy ethos – The Ramble preserves the spirt of RiNo and seamlessly fits into the neighborhood’s context with details both inside and out.    

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The Ramble fits seamlessly into its vibrant and gritty context, reflecting the character of Denver’s RiNo Art District. 

By demonstrating the flexible ways both business and leisure travelers can enjoy public spaces that capture the roots of their locality, we can make travel meaningful again. Everyone is eager to escape, and the hospitality industry is ready to deliver a rejuvenating experience that will build the excitement for more exploration as we head into the new year.  

Nicolenathan Jns Nicole Nathan is a creative visionary with more than 20 years of experience as a design architect creating some of the most dynamic spaces in Denver and across the country. As a Partner at JNS, Nicole leads the firm’s architectural and interior design studios, focusing on hospitality, urban mixed-use and housing projects. Nicole’s leadership throughout her 15 years with the firm has helped grow JNS into a top architecture and interior design firm in the region. 

What’s next for Colorado hotels?

Travel Tourism Report Westin Riverfront Lobby Terrace 2021
The Westin Riverfront in Avon

For Colorado’s lodging industry, the bust followed the best of times. After 2019 set high-water marks for rates and occupancy across the state, the fall was notably steep. 

According to data from the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association, Colorado hit 69.3% occupancy in March 2019, then the statewide number tumbled to 38.8% in March 2020.

“It was really a devastating year for everybody,” says Richard Scharf, president and CEO of Visit Denver. “When we started 2021, the first quarter looked like 2020.”

Dubbing 2019 “a banner year” for Denver’s hotels, Scharf says Denver does best when group, business and leisure travel are all doing well. While the pandemic took a hatchet to all three legs of the stool, leisure has led the rebound. “Quite honestly, the top has come off and it looks like people are willing to travel,” Scharf says.

Not all has recovered: Scharf forecasts occupancy for metro Denver to approach 60% for the year, versus 73.5% in 2019. A lagging indicator, the average daily rate (ADR) was about $90 as of July 2021, down roughly 30% from $133 in 2019. 

Business and group travel “are coming back slowly,” Scharf says. Group is trickiest, especially when it comes to big events at the Colorado Convention Center. “We book this business five to 10 years out,” Scharf says. “The convention center was still an alternate care facility [in early 2021].” That uncertainty bumped the calendar forward a few months. For example, the 2021 Outdoor Retailer show was moved from June to August.

Leisure is buoyed by being “an outdoor city in an outdoor state,” Scharf adds, but Denver International Airport has proven invaluable, leapfrogging O’Hare in Chicago and Los Angeles International Airport to emerge as the third-busiest airport in the country. “We had unbelievable domestic routes that are still intact,” Scharf says, calling DIA a “lifeline” for the state’s hotels during the pandemic.

Denver-based Sage Hotel Management manages 60 properties, 17 of them in Colorado, primarily in Denver. President and COO Daniel del Olmo says revenue fell by 70% across all properties in 2020, but Colorado was a little better: off by 50% to 60%. The first quarter of 2021 was similarly difficult, he adds, but revenue was only off 2019 levels by 35% as of midsummer; rates were down 13% from 2019.

Summer 2021 is a different story. “The summer is frankly much stronger than we anticipated,” del Olmo says. “We feel very bullish about Colorado.”

The only bottleneck is labor: Sage Hotel Management had a staff of 4,500 at all properties as of August, off from 6,200 before the pandemic, but del Olmo says the company has been struggling to fill 800 open positions nationwide.

Travel Tourism Report Westin Riverfront Lobby 2021
The Westin Riverfront in Avon

Lodgings in mountain towns have bounced back faster than their counterparts on the Front Range. Greg Koehler, owner of the Rabbit Ears Motel in Steamboat Springs, says summer 2021 was “extraordinary.” After a year of deep discounts, rates “are a little bit higher” than 2019, he acknowledges, but lower than the uptick at most of his competitors. 

“This is a difficult environment,” Koehler adds, “but everybody has to be cautiously optimistic.”

The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, Avon, Vail Valley, went from fully booked to empty in early April 2020. “It was the worst week of my career to lay off those wonderful associates,” General Manager Kristen Pryor says.

But 2020 ended “better than expected,” she says, despite the loss of all group and conference business – typically 30% of the hotel’s receipts. “The resorts are back but the rest of the state is not,” says Pryor.

Rates have gone up, but so has the cost of business: Pryor says wages are up 5% to 10%, and cleaning costs have increased. Regardless, the hotel has fewer than 300 employees, about 100 fewer than she would like. 

Pryor forecasts group travel could fully recover in 2022, and notes, “I think people again are yearning to meet in person.” Destination weddings at the property usually attract 80% of invited guests; in 2021, that is closer to 100%.

In Durango, occupancy eclipsed 2019 levels (62% for the year) as of early summer. In 2020, occupancy was 47.5%.”There’s a lot of pent-up demand,” says Rachel Brown, executive director at Visit Durango. “We’ve reached our recovery tipping point.”

Brown forecasts sustained growth, and points to a lodger’s tax hike, increasing room taxes from 2% to 5.25% as of June 2021 and Visit Durango’s budget from $1.3 million to $2.3 million. And new lodging properties have added 435 new rooms to Durango in the last two years – a 23% increase.

Tom Foley, senior vice president of business process and analytics of Inntopia, a software provider for the travel industry, says 2020’s decline “wasn’t as bad as feared” for mountain destinations. 

That was largely due to rates holding up nicely. For mountain destinations, average rates stayed within 10% of the preceding highs, unlike “the race to the bottom” seen in 2008-09. “The benchmark of never really giving up rates gave the industry something to build on once that pent-up demand really started to flow in January or February,” Foley says.

Access to the outdoors is driving demand, he adds, with Montana, Wyoming and Utah experiencing similar trends. “Colorado is a bit of the standard bearer, leading the parade,” Foley says.

And there’s also a metaphorical “tidal wave” of spending: Americans saved $1.5 trillion during the pandemic that’s now “burning a hole in people’s mattresses,” Foley says. While summer 2021 saw occupancy up slightly over 2019, rates skyrocketed by about 30% at Colorado’s mountain resorts.

Noting that this rise in rates has outpaced wage growth “by several hundred percent,” Foley says the current trajectory “is unsustainable,” adding, “It’s difficult to say, but my own guess is room rate is going to contract, and people are going to have to consider that next year’s budget is going to have a ton of strong performance in it and still not be able to capture this year’s revenue.”

Top Company 2020: Tourism & Hospitality

Top Co Imprint Group Photo 1
Imprint Events Group

In its 33rd year, ColoradoBiz‘s Top Company honors the Colorado companies that have drive, determination, a vision and a plan and are ultimately making the state a better place to live and work. These three companies – one winner and two finalists –represent the 2020 Top Companies in Tourism & Hospitality.

Winner

SummitCove Lodging

Keystone

When COVID-19 closed Summit County to travelers, SummitCove had guests in-house and hundreds more arriving. It had to close all rentals and cancel future reservations.

That’s when the company culture kicked in.

“Our employees came together and built an extensive list of ideas to bring in additional revenues and cut operational costs without compromising employee benefits,” owner and CEO Peter Reeburgh says. “We were able to generate more revenue in May than ever before by implementing these ideas. We have created brand-new revenue streams that we never had before.”

The company credits Jack Stack’s “The Great Game of Business” system with helping spur growth, make smart decisions and engage its team of 40. SummitCove offers profit-sharing bonus opportunities to employees, along with such perks as ski pass reimbursement, health insurance plans, 401(k) matching program and discounted recreation passes.

“Our secret sauce is doing everything we can to take care of our employees and treat them like family,” Reeburgh says. “We take the stance that if you pay someone a fair wage, add in tons of benefits for everyone — including seasonal employees — that person feels comfortable and like they belong in a family that cares.”

Because of the pandemic, SummitCove launched a new campaign, “Clean It For A Cause,” which donates half of its retail cleaning services booked to the local food bank, the Family Intercultural Resource Center of Summit County, which also benefits from an annual food and clothing drive at the holidays.

Finalists

Imprint Events Group

Denver 

What do you do when your business is shut down by a global pandemic?

Imprint Events Group, which annually produces more than 1,100 events for clients in Colorado, Nevada and Florida, turned on a dime. Within weeks, it had developed a full spectrum of digital and virtual services, established a twice-weekly webinar series for its community, helped found a nonprofit organization to assist frontline workers in need and retained 30 of its 46 employees.

Business is taking a hit, but the 51-year-old company is seeing future opportunities on the rise. In 2019, Imprint produced events in 12 states and five countries, and the addition of virtual services means it can now host events anywhere. It is currently working with a client in Saudi Arabia on a proposed virtual event to take place this fall.

Rocky Mountain Connections (RMC)

Aspen

Since 1989, Rocky Mountain Connections (RMC), North America’s largest privately owned destination management company, has grown from a single location in Aspen to more than 30 destinations across the U.S. and Mexico.

RMC provides premier event-management services to a sophisticated and eclectic clientele of corporate and incentive groups, associations and travel and meeting planners. It is the preferred destination services provider for The Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, Four Seasons, Marriott Luxury Properties and Montage Resorts and is exclusive Colorado hotel partners with a wide range of luxury resorts.

RMC supports Challenge Aspen, which creates adaptive experiences for people with cognitive or physical disabilities; Jazz Aspen Snowmass, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving jazz and supporting musical performances and education in the Roaring Fork Valley; and Trashmasters Aspen Scholarship Fund, which grants college scholarships to area students.

Top Company Awards 2022

The outpouring of applications for this year’s Top Company awards is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of enterprises that do business in the state. Applications for the 35th annual awards numbered in the hundreds, and it was particularly encouraging to see so many companies rebounding from two years of COVID restrictions, with most posting revenue and employee gains approaching – and in some cases, exceeding — pre-pandemic numbers.

This year’s Top Company winners and finalists represent 13 industry categories, plus a startup category for companies in business less than four years. Entrants were judged on three criteria: outstanding achievement, financial performance and community involvement. The judging panel was made up of ColoradoBiz magazine’s editorial board and two representatives from the business community.

To be eligible for consideration, companies must be based in Colorado or show significant business presence in the state. For more information on the Top Company application process, go to cobizmag.com and click on the “Nominate” tab. To learn more about this year’s Top Company winners and finalists, read on.

 

Top Company 2022 Winners:

ADVERTISING, MARKETING & DIGITAL MARKETING — Novitas Communications | Denver

ARCHITECTURE & INTERIOR DESIGN — Shears Adkins Rockmore Architects | Denver

CONSTRUCTION & ENGINEERING — Ward Electric Co. | Longmont

CONSUMER BUSINESS — Alpine Buick GMC | Littleton

FINANCIAL SERVICES — Canvas Credit Union | Lone Tree

MANUFACTURING — Growing Spaces | Pagosa Springs

PROFESSIONAL SERVICES — National Valuation Consultants | Centennial

REAL ESTATE — Bray & Company | Grand Junction

TECHNOLOGY, SOFTWARE & COMMUNICATIONS — ColdQuanta | Boulder

STARTUPS — Fulfilld Intelligent Warehouse Software | Denver

NONPROFIT — We Don’t Waste | Denver

ENERGY — NexGen Resources Corp | Greenwood Village

TOURISM & HOSPITALITY — Travelers Haven | Denver

AEROSPACE — Barber-Nichols | Arvada