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Posted: July 01, 2008

No rooms at the inn

Visitors to the Democratic convention will find it tough to find accommodations for getaways beyond Denver as summer season is in full swing.

Kyle Ringo


Denver hotels will bulge to capacity in late August when the Democratic National Convention brings an estimated 50,000 visitors to town. Some of those delegates, political insiders and volunteers are expected to stick around to explore scenic mountain trails or take a load off at area resorts once the nominating process is complete.

They might have a fight on their hands when it comes to finding accommodations at five-star hotels nearby and in the mountains. August traditionally is one of the busiest times of year for many destinations in the state, and at this point it doesn’t appear soaring gas prices and greater traveling costs are preventing folks from planning getaways to the mountains.

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park is fewer than six miles from Rocky Mountain National Park and is a popular choice during the summer months with 138 rooms. Norma Wilt, corporate sales and marketing director for Grand Heritage Hotel Group, the parent company of the Stanley Hotel, said the Stanley doesn’t have plans to capitalize on the convention or the aftermath because the hotel is close to capacity already at that time. It’s a similar story told by others in the business.

The 3-year-old St. Julien Hotel and Spa in Boulder has about 200 rooms starting at $289 a night, and most were already sold out in late spring for the final two weeks in August just before and after the Aug. 25-28 convention.

"It’s very close to when the University of Colorado has its move-in week," said Valerie Knorr, director of sales for the St. Julien in downtown Boulder. "A lot of the people are coming back, and parents are joining the students. So based on that, we really have no plans to try to promote ourselves any further."

The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs boasts 700 rooms, beautifully manicured golf courses at the foot of Pikes Peak and little availability around the convention. Allison Scott, director of communications for the Broadmoor, said in late May the hotel was in low double digits in available rooms around convention time. Scott said it is likely some of the hotel’s bookings at that time have come from convention goers, but it is impossible to know how many.

Scott said the hotel is normally close to full throughout August, and this summer already figures to be one the busiest in recent memory with the U.S. Senior Open golf tournament scheduled to be played at the Broadmoor July 31-Aug. 3. The Broadmoor is working with the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, but it isn’t offering packages specifically designed to lure delegates, lobbyists or political junkies to the hotel.

"In the middle of August, I have virtually no rooms to sell anyway," Scott said. "We will have just a handful of rooms at that point. It’s the height of our season. We’re hoping we pick up some pre- and post-convention visits, but we’re not seeing anything significant that is tied to the DNC. We’re very busy during that time anyway."

Scott said with a large event like the DNC and a lot of attention focused on the state, history suggests plenty of people will make last-minute trips before or after the convention. She said it won’t be possible to judge those numbers or the true impact on the Broadmoor’s business until postmortem.

Vail Resorts had not finalized its plan for special packages focused toward those who will visit the state for the convention, but it was planning such deals in late May. Vail Resorts spokeswoman Amy Kemp said the company won’t only market itself to the political-minded tourist this summer. It will also encourage Denver residents who want to get away from the mayhem to visit the mountains for a few days.

That might be just what some have in mind by offering their houses and condominiums for rent on craigslist.com for a few weeks surrounding the convention. Having a convention-goer pay the rent for a month can make a getaway a more realistic and affordable idea.

"They are quote-unquote escaping the city, potentially to the mountains, and, I’m sure, elsewhere," Kemp said.

Some in the political sphere who are likely to attend both the Democratic convention and the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis Sept. 1-4 will have a few days to kill between the two events. It is that group Vail Resorts hopes to attract to its properties in Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen and Keystone for a few days of golf or simply to rest before cranking up the motor once again.

"We really haven’t flushed out where they are going," Kemp said. "I think everyone is speculating at this point, but it’s a matter of once they’re in Denver, are they planning to spend the weekend in the Colorado Rockies because it has a bunch of very attractive destinations before they go to Minneapolis?"

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Kyle Ringo is a Colorado native who has covered business and sports and the business of sports in the state for two decades for Cobizmag.com and a variety of publications. He covers the University of Colorado in his day job in Boulder at the Daily Camera. Contact him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter @KyleRiingo.

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