Business trip: Denver
Even the most notorious nose-to-the-grindstone business traveller will have a difficult time not having fun in sunny Denver, located on the eastern edge of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
Its location near the geographic centre of the US, a world-class airport and a rash of recent hotel developments in its pedestrian-friendly core have combined to make Denver an increasingly regular stop on the business travel circuit. From 2010 to 2011, there was a 17% increase in business travellers coming to the city, and a hotel building boom will add some 1,400 new rooms over the next two to three years.
Also, the city’s diverse economy has weathered the recent economic storm better than most other major US cities. In April the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation had to revise its forecast due to better-than-expected gains in employment, retail sales and applications for residential building permits.
Denver’s historic centre is in the middle of massive redevelopment in and around Union Station, which is located in the lower downtown area known among locals as “LoDo”. By mid-2014 the Beaux Arts-style rail station should emerge as a new multi-modal transportation hub, with a 112-room hotel and an expansive indoor/outdoor dining and retail area. With nine new office buildings under construction within a few blocks, the end result will be an unusual mix of modern glass and steel alongside the area’s original red brick, iron, stone and timber buildings.
Denver International Airport is considered one of the best airports in the world – and one of the least expensive. Stiff competition among low-fare carriers like Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines (along with the dominant United Airlines) has reduced average fares to and from Denver by about 28% over the last decade. This year the airport will add new long haul nonstops to and from Tokyo, Mexico City and Reykjavik.
However, the airport’s distance from downtown – some 40 to 60 minutes by car or cab depending on traffic – has long irritated visitors. That frustration will evaporate in 2016 when the new FasTracks East Rail Line will cut the duration of the 25-mile trip between downtown and the newly renovated Union Station to just 30 minutes. In the meantime, cab fares from the airport to downtown are set at $55.15 plus tip. Renting a car is another option, but be aware of steep fees if you plan to park at a downtown hotel.
There are two five-star hotels in Denver. The chic 239-room Four Seasons Hotel Denver opened near the Colorado Convention Center in October 2010 – relieving pressure on the 202-room Ritz-Carlton, Denver, which opened in January 2008 – to accommodate the city’s increasing number of luxury-seeking visitors. Both hotels are located in modern downtown high-rises and offer upscale steakhouses, spas and club levels.
Denver’s two elegant grand dames are the Oxford Hotel and the Brown Palace. Both are more than 100 years old, yet they have done a masterful job of keeping up with the times, remaining fixtures on the local social and business travel scene. For example, the 80-room Oxford, located steps away from Union Station in burgeoning LoDo, will be the “sister” to the station’s yet-to-be-named new hotel, sharing meeting, spa and gym space. The ornate hotel is filled with European antiques and elegant suites (some with four poster beds and claw-foot tubs), plus modern amenities such as large flat screen televisions and complimentary high-speed wi-fi throughout the historic five-storey brick structure. The iconic Brown Palace (located a few blocks to the east) is where locals gather in its soaring, stained glass-capped atrium for afternoon tea or weekend brunch. It joined Marriott’s Autograph Collection of independent hotels in 2012, which means guests can earn or redeem points in their popular Rewards program.
Denver’s downtown hotel scene is dotted by several upscale boutiques in historic buildings, such as the 246-room Magnolia Hotel, sporting handsome, contemporary rooms with high ceilings, large windows and dark wood furniture; the eclectic 189-room Hotel Monaco, which renovated all rooms and public areas in 2011; and the 110-room Hotel Teatro, located in a beautifully restored red brick and limestone Renaissance Revival-style building.