Denver had 17.4 million overnight visitors in 2017, according to industry website hotel-scoop.com, and they stayed in the city’s nearly 50,000 hotel beds—a number that in recent years has grown by the thousands every year. Heath Dobyns has watched this rapid growth take place on a day-to-day level. He managed hotels in the area for years before becoming the general manager of the Hyatt Place Denver/Cherry Creek in May 2018. He gauges the hotel market in Denver not just by annual statistics, but by analyzing how well a particular area can absorb a single large event. A few years ago, an event in downtown Denver that had 4,000 attendees would start sending people to hotels in Glendale as demand outstripped supply. But with the addition of dozens of hotels and thousands of beds, downtown can sufficiently absorb events with 6,000 employees. Dobyns expects that soon downtown can easily absorb 8,000 people before sending Colorado visitors his way.
That trend is an example of why understanding data about the hotel industry is a complex endeavor. The growth in visitors, hotels, and available beds points to a healthy, growing hospitality industry on the macro level. But this overall growth can have interesting implications for business on a case-by-case basis. Perhaps counterintuitively, the stronger the tourism and hotel industry becomes downtown, the less likely hotels on Denver’s mid and outer areas are to reap the benefits of that downtown growth. In other words, as Denver’s downtown becomes bigger, it becomes self-contained, relying less on service industries outside of it during periods of peak demand.
But changing conditions don’t necessarily represent trouble for Dobyns: It represents an opportunity. Whereas most people might see hotels as falling into a handful of categories—luxury, standard, economy—Dobyns sees an array of options and types and subtypes of hotel options. We see in black and white, but he sees in color. He understands exactly where his property excels, and he seeks to leverage those strengths.
Dobyns’ previous managerial experience was with the same brand of hotels, so he was familiar with the general outlines of the company and the experience it sought to deliver. Hyatt Place is a select service hotel—typically a hotel that has services beyond economy options with offerings such as gyms, pools, and breakfast, but that doesn’t have an attached restaurant or banquet area. But Dobyns saw a few key differences at his new location, even though it was the same brand. “This property is pretty unique as far as any select hotel goes,” Dobyns said. Anyone who has seen the glass-clad tower would agree that it looks more like a downtown hotel than a three-floor, stucco-sided hotel. And with that height comes something that nearly every visitor wants when going to the Mile High City: mountain views. But the differences don’t lie only with the exterior. “Our kitchen area is well overbuilt for a Hyatt, but it allows us to operate like a full service hotel with a restaurant.” The Hyatt Place, which is in a building more than 30 years old, uses that kitchen to its advantage, delivering all-day food offerings—not just breakfast. Dobyns said the Hyatt Place is moving away from the standardized food options found at most hotels of this level to a more customized, regional menu, including local beer and bourbons.
The building’s location in Glendale has historically been an advantage, as it lies at the intersection of major Denver crossroads. But Dobyns sees new opportunities based on his location—opportunities his predecessors didn’t have, even a decade ago. “Years ago, the thinking was that we piggy backed off Cherry Creek,” he said. “But I think Glendale has done a lot looking out in the future to stand on its own, apart from Cherry Creek. Infinity Park is one of those things.” In fact, when Dobyns arrived this spring, he and his team reviewed partnership and sponsorship agreements they had with various organizations. One of those existing partnerships was with Infinity Park. He and a sales manager toured Infinity Park to see what Hyatt Place got out of the partnership. “I was blown away,” he said. “Visiting teams more than pay for our sponsorship. But we also get advertising and pick up fans who are visiting. But outside the return-on-investment aspect, I think it’s important to associate with the marquee draw in Glendale as Glendale continues to grow. It’s important to support these kinds of things. We all benefit.” In the end, he made the decision to renew the Hyatt Place’s sponsorship with Infinity Park and the Glendale Raptors. “We do great business due to events from Infinity Park. It’s a perfect storm for us.”
The hotel landscape will continue to change and develop as Denver grows. But Dobyns knows change is a constant. Shifting consumer expectations are not new to this, or any industry. Years ago air conditioning was a bonus. Now it’s a must-have. Free high speed internet is today’s version of air conditioning. But Dobyns knows that to remain competitive means staying focused on the central aim of hospitality instead of being distracted with the constant changes. “We don’t sell a tangible product: We build a good team,” he said. “It’s corny and it’s simple, but we want to give people a good experience.”