Originally appeared in Denver Business Journal in November, 2019
Six years after Stonebridge Companies debuted the first dual-branded hotel in Denver, it is opening another such facility in the downtown area today — one that incorporates improvements it learned from its first attempt at a style of hotel that is becoming more popular as developers seek to achieve a maximum return on investment for high-priced land in space-limited urban cores.
The Tru by Hilton/Home2 Suites by Hilton Denver Downtown Convention Center located on the corner of 15th and Stout streets includes 382 total rooms, 3,300 square feet of meeting space and a Tempo Bar that officials hope will become a gathering place both for hotel guests and for people heading out to a nearby Denver Center for the Performing Arts play or Denver Nuggets game. It also has a shared front desk, a shared lobby and shared breakfast space — common areas for patrons of both brands that came about as a result of six years of learning in the Hampton Inn/Homewood Suites hotel that sits just two blocks southeast of it.
When that facility opened in 2013, the Denver-headquartered company attempted to differentiate the two brands by having separate check-in stations and separate food areas that it felt would reflect the different sensibilities of customers who tended to frequent the brands, both of which are owned by Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. (NYSE: HLT). What it found, though, was that the initial set-up could cause confusion or even frustration among customers, who just wanted to get to their rooms or grab their waffles, said Brandyn Gibson, who helped to open that first experiment and serves as the director of sales and marketing for the new hotel.
Like that 6-year-old hotel, Stonebridge’s newest venture combines a pair of Hilton brands that tend to attract different crowds. Tru offers rooms of about 200 square feet and an expansive lobby, making it popular with younger travelers who are looking to spend as little time as possible where they sleep and want to mingle in a common area and then get out into the city. Home2 Suites is an extended stay property with a kitchen in each room and facilities like washing machines for business or leisure travelers planning to stay for more than a day or two.
Bundling the brands should help the property, whose construction costs officials declined to reveal, to cast a wider net and draw a bigger crowd — both transient travelers here for a business meeting or extended weekend, and conventioneers or contract workers coming to the city for a week or more, dual general manager Scott Perry said in an interview. And that is key at a time when new hotels are opening in downtown Denver about every few months, making the competition for guests that much more intense.
“It just provides us more flexibility with our travelers. It gives us appeal to more travelers,” Perry said. “For our location, we’re not just relevant for one segment of guests, so we’re not going to be afraid to do what we can to bring in everyone.”
While floors eight through 21 house guest rooms, much of the seventh floor is taken up by a ballroom that can be divided into two segments, a boardroom meeting area and a pre-function area that provides mingling space for groups planning events there. Gibson said he expects the meeting areas to host small conferences and corporate gatherings more than the weddings that other downtown hotels rely on for revenue, but with an open view of the downtown area and the mountains beyond, he believes some office and other parties will find the space appealing as well.
Hotel officials did a semi-surprising dry run on the facility Tuesday night, as they offered to let sales personnel and other staffers spend the night there rather than require them to drive home in the snowstorm and come back early the next morning. Perry said it served as a testing opportunity for everything from using room amenities to learning which breakfast-buffet items were popular and which ones weren’t.
“I’m glad I was the first person in my room, because sometimes you see things better from the guest perspective,” noted Perry, who tried all of the gadgets and learned what was easy to work and what wasn’t. “It’s a fun experience, running up and down the halls. It’s the last time we can scream in the night here, I guess.”
By: Ed Sealover
Say wow to Tru by Hilton Denver Downtown Convention Center, in the mix of it all near the theatre district, Larimer Square, and tons of dining and shops. Our smaller, more efficiently designed rooms feature a great bed with crisp linens, a large HDTV with premium channels and a big, bright bathroom with Not Soap, Radio products.
Start your day with a complimentary fresh, hot breakfast with a variety of selections. When the munchies hit, stop by our 24/7 market for local treats, gourmet snacks and single serve wine and beer. Stop by, Tempo, our full service bar and have a drink.
Hang out in our big lobby, with space to eat, work and play. Grab a board game and play with friends, work in the semi-private alcoves and keep your devices charged with plenty of outlets. Our modern fitness center lets you keep up your routine, and you can enjoy free WiFi and wireless printing throughout the hotel.
Affordable travel now comes with unexpected things – like certainty.
Tru by Hilton – Denver Downtown
801 15th St
Denver, CO 80202
Hotel Phone: 303-753-1201
Hotel Fax: 303-753-1202
Stay a while at our new, vibrant Home2 Suites by Hilton Denver Downtown Convention Center hotel, ideally located just one block from the Colorado Convention Center. Enjoy being within walking distance of the theatre district, tons of restaurants and the 16th Street Mall. We are just minutes from Coors Field, Mile High Stadium, the Denver Zoo and much more.
Spread out in a spacious studio or two-room suite, perfect for extended stays. There’s plenty of storage space, moveable furniture and a fully equipped in-suite kitchen with full-size refrigerator. Rest well on the great bed, lounge on the sofa bed and watch the HDTV or stay productive at the desk. Each suite also includes free WiFi, and all are pet-friendly.
Start the day with a tasty free, hot breakfast of fresh waffles, breakfast sandwiches, fruit and more. Fresh coffee and hot tea are available 24/7 in our Oasis, and you can pick up a snack or beverage at our Home2 MKT® anytime. Enjoy free printing in our business services areas and keep up your routine in our fitness center.
Home2 Suites – Denver Downtown
801 15th St
Denver, CO 80202
Hotel Phone: 303-759-1301
Hotel Fax: 303-759-1302
Originally appeared in Lodging Magazine in October, 2019
It is no secret that the hospitality industry—like many others—is facing a “war for talent.” Combine the low unemployment rate and tight labor market with the industry’s booming growth, and the demands on today’s hotels are stronger than ever.
These challenges are especially daunting within a market where one dominant hospitality employer is the tourist destination—the Anaheim/Garden Grove market, where Disneyland is king.
In markets with this dynamic—like Anaheim’s counterpart in Orlando with Walt Disney World Resort or Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas—hotels can benefit from the draw created by the hospitality giant. Opportunity is plentiful in Anaheim. The market never stops growing, and is often isolated from issues and seasonality that can be commonplace elsewhere. Disneyland draws strong tourism demand throughout the year. In turn, the distinct culture in Anaheim, mixed with the steady employment opportunities, attracts an exceptional level of talent.
But with this also comes intense competition. So, how can hotels leverage these dynamics to tap into the talent pool? The simple answer is: culture.
Workplace Culture is Key
A hospitality giant like Disney has risen to its preeminence due in large part to its engaging culture. So, culture should be a similarly strong—if not greater—focus for competitors.
Bringing to life a sincere and relatable mission is one of the most critical efforts a hotelier can employ. This mission should not just be words on paper; it should live in every nook of the property. Words—and actions—matter. If team members hear about the value they bring to the hotel and the role they play in the guest experience, this messaging leaves an impression, much more so than a property that speaks to its bottom line. If hotels are meeting their standards for guest experiences, financial success is sure to follow.
Leverage the Hotel Brand & Local Culture
Tapping into the hotel’s brand provides a unique offering that distinguishes a property from the “Disneylands” of the market. Being able to tout a renowned brand like Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, or IHG sends a strong statement to associates.
Blending the hotel’s brand into the market can create an engaging workplace dynamic that resonates with team members at the local level. For example, “good neighbor” hotels can mix the Disney magic into their properties in a meaningful way that is “close to the action, without the distraction.” Popcorn movie nights screening Disney films in the lobby or Disney-themed selfie stations enhance the guest experience by leveraging Anaheim culture while remaining separate from the peak hustle and bustle in the core of Disneyland. This work environment resonates well with team members who, living near Anaheim, often embrace the Disney culture.
Recruit with a Focus on Retention
It is important to view candidates in terms of their potential to develop into long-term associates through proper development. Most often, properties will find success by hiring for personality over skill set. When team members display characteristics that embody a company’s values, the firm should invest in the associates by supporting their career development, showing they’re a top priority.
This cultural effort is especially critical in a market like Anaheim, where properties see a significant amount of movement within the talent pool. Candidates are often happy within the market, thanks to the distinctive culture it offers, but they may frequently move among properties. The likelihood of this “property hopping” increases when team members don’t feel a distinct connection to the hotel or manager, and have a plethora of competing hotels to which they can apply.
Should the hospitality firm own several properties in the market, the firm has a distinct opportunity to heighten team member development. By coordinating their talent needs, a hotel network can offer additional training or advancement opportunities beyond what a single property could provide. When working in tandem, co-located properties can scale their offerings to compete effectively in the market.
Turn the Internal Wins into External Buzz
Once a hotel has developed a strong internal culture and program, it should be promoted heavily to external audiences. People want to work at an exciting company. Social media, community promotions, and word of mouth should all be present in a hotel’s recruitment strategy.
Clearly, hotels can learn many lessons from those who succeed in markets with a single hospitality giant.
Richard Auer, Ashley Lopez and Alfredo Sanedrin are the general managers of Stonebridge Companies’ Homewood Suites, Hampton Inn & Suites and Hilton Garden Inn properties in Anaheim/Garden Grove, Calif.
By: Richard Auer, Ashley Lopez and Alfredo Sanedrin
Located just South of San Francisco, Hilton Garden Inn San Francisco Airport North hotel is the ideal location for short and extended stays in the city by the bay. Within walking distance of Oyster Point, our hotel offers business guests everything they need for a successful trip to San Francisco.
Hilton Garden Inn San Francisco Airport North
670 Gateway Blvd
South San Francisco, CA 94080
Hotel Phone: 650-872-1515
Hotel Fax: 650-872-1064
Originally appeared in Mile High CRE in October, 2019
Stonebridge Companies — a Denver-based, privately owned, innovative hotel owner, operator and developer with a rapidly expanding footprint — has added Shauna Sandage to its corporate team as vice president of hotel operations. Sandage supports Stonebridge Companies’ team of more than 3,100 associates and portfolio comprising 62 hotels with more than 10,500 guest rooms nationwide.
As Vice President of hotel operations, Sandage is responsible for ensuring that all hotel operations are carried out to Stonebridge Companies’ and brand standards, and that Stonebridge’s properties consistently deliver Distinguished Hospitality™ for superior guest service. With more than 13 years of experience in hospitality operations, she has supported the Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and IHG brands. Sandage began her career with Summit Group in 2006 as general manager, and most recently she served as director of operations and revenue management at KWB, LLC.
Sandage’s leadership extends into the community. For seven years, Sandage has also actively supported Advocates for Children – CASA, which assists the Arapahoe County district in Colo. To support the organization, which serves abused and neglected children, she has hosted or co-chaired numerous fundraising events and served as a board member for five years.
“Shauna is a strong addition to our corporate team and an excellent embodiment of the Stonebridge Companies brand, from her professional excellence to her commitment to the community,” said Chris Manley, chief operating officer of Stonebridge Companies. “Her role ensuring the successful operation of our properties is critical to our firm’s hard-earned reputation for delivering Distinguished Hospitality™ to our guests, and we’re fortunate to have her talent.”
Originally appeared in Hotel News Now in August, 2019
Contract labor is now viewed as a necessary—but still costly—evil by many hoteliers, according to sources speaking at the Hotel Data Conference. But hotel companies can take some steps to mitigate the pain of that additional cost.
Speaking during the “Help wanted! Dealing with today and tomorrow’s labor issues” panel, Amanda Chivers, managing principal of asset management firm Crown Hospitality Consulting, said contract labor is less than ideal but also unavoidable, especially at large, full-service properties and resorts.
“It’s really creating more demand for contract labor,” she said. “Look at resorts; 70% have to rely on contract labor. Imagine how that impacts your bottom line and profitability.”
It’s not just a profitability issue, either, Chivers said. A constantly rotating cast of employees can make it difficult to maintain service levels.
Chris Cheney, VP of hotel performance and analytics for Stonebridge Companies, also noted contract labor agencies often have lower standards for employees than hotels, so hoteliers must be clear on who they feel is eligible to work on-property.
“They’re less stringent in vetting (employees), which is a scary area to be in because it only takes one Department of Labor ruling to tie us more closely to those employees,” he said. “So we contractually say they have to be eligible associates and people who are legal to work at our properties.”
Biran Patel, vice chairman of AAHOA and partner at BHP Investment Company, said the need for contract labor is equally acute at the low end of the spectrum in part because of the stigma of working at economy hotels.
“Where I live in Texas, with some economy hotels it’s harder to find line-level employees because (full-service hotels) pay more with better benefits and these are exterior-corridor properties, but (employees) would rather work (inside),” Patel said.
But companies like Patel’s are still better off paying the premium for labor during high-demand periods than giving up the ability to sell some rooms.
“While your revenue is doing well, you can’t cut corners,” he said.
Cheney said the cost and increased competition for contract labor is “a growing concern” for his company. He said the need for it at some properties has been reduced (or even eliminated) by making employees feel wanted.
“It hasn’t been through recruiting as much as grassroot efforts, putting the time and energy into talking with individual candidates,” he said.
He said success has been driven by providing “personal attention” to candidates.
“A lot of companies want to cast the broadest net, but where we find success is when a candidate walks through the door we don’t want them to leave,” Cheney said. “If they go down the street to retail or other industries, we’ll never see them again.”
One of the problems with contract labor’s availability and cost, panelists said, is hotels aren’t just competing with other hotels but with other large-scale employers like hospitals, and those businesses often have the benefits of being less seasonal.
To combat these issues, hoteliers need to find creative solutions. In addition to treating and paying employees well, Chivers said the resorts she works with cover food and housing for employees. She said those properties also rely heavily on family and friends referrals.
“That helps create an environment where it’s comfortable and cohesive for new employees, and they come in already almost pre-trained,” she said. “If their family is in the industry, then they already know about service culture.”
Cheney said hotel companies can take simple steps to open themselves up to more potential candidates. He noted having an application process that requires an email address could eliminate as much as 75% of the pool of potential housekeepers.
“We all assume everyone has an email address, but research has shown that is not the case,” he said.
He also noted his company has had some success recruiting J-1 visa workers, who are often students from other countries coming to the U.S. to work at large seasonal employers such as amusement parks. Partnering with their primary employer could give hotels a new pool of intelligent, eager employees.
“Most of those workers want to have a second job,” he said. “They want to work the whole time they’re here then take two weeks to travel and see the U.S. before they go home.”
Patel said his company has made the strategic decision to not drug test employees, which could further scale back the potential pool of workers.
“If you’re not bringing what you do at home to the workplace, then we don’t make that an issue,” he said.
Labor in a downturn
Labor costs are on the rise due to new minimum wage laws across the country, and profits might start to decline this year, which means it is time to start planning for a downturn, Joseph Rael, senior director of consulting and analytics at STR, said during the “Labor costs in a downturn” session at the recent Hotel Data Conference. STR is the parent company of HNN.
STR expects revenue-per-available-room growth of 1.6% for full-year 2019, which isn’t significant growth, so Rael said labor costs are expected to continue to outpace growth in room revenue.
Minimum wage has risen to $13.25 an hour in some states, and has reached $15 or more in cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles.
In 2018, labor costs outpaced revenue growth across all chain scales except for the luxury class, which was the only segment to see significant profit growth, Rael said. The midscale and economy segments saw profit declines as a result of labor growth of 6.7% for those segments.
In the past few years, labor costs have accelerated while revenues “have slowed to a point where they are no longer able to keep up,” he said, adding that only nine of the top 25 U.S markets saw revenue outpace growth in labor costs in 2018.
Rising labor costs aren’t necessarily a bad thing for all markets, he said.
“Minneapolis and Miami were the top two markets in the top 25 in terms of profit growth in 2018, right around 11%,” he said. “So if you’re seeing growth in revenues, you’re seeing growth in occupancy and you’re having to staff more, you’re having people working more hours, then you’re going to get that growth in labor costs as well.”
By: Sean McCracken and Danielle Hess
Originally appeared in Hotel News Now in August, 2019
One of the most critical things a hotel can offer a guest is a quality night’s sleep, but according to a recent survey from JD Power, some hotels aren’t delivering satisfactory sleeping conditions.
According to results from JD Power’s 2019 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, just 29% of hotel guests surveyed said they had a “better-than-expected” quality of sleep. The majority of guests who had a good night’s sleep at a hotel said they would return to the property or brand.
Hoteliers investing in the sleep experience know the value it brings.
Chris Manley, COO at Stonebridge Companies, which manages a portfolio of hotels in the brand families of Hilton, Marriott International, InterContinental Hotels Group and Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, said a good night’s stay is highly important.
Despite the costly expense, investing in products to support sleep is critical, he said.
Start with the bed
Ron Pohl, SVP and COO at Best Western Hotels & Resorts, said what customers really want is a clean and comfortable bed. He said mattresses have always been a key element for each of the company’s brands.
For Best Western Premier, which ranked highest in guest satisfaction for the upscale segment in JD Power’s 2019 study, Pohl said his team researches which mattresses people are buying the most for their homes, then will endorse vendors who can provide those preferred mattresses to hotels.
“We continue to evolve that mattress spec to ensure it’s the latest and greatest sleeping experience out there,” he said. “The minimum expectation of a customer is ‘I want as nice of a mattress as I have at home and if it exceeds that, we remember that.’”
When implementing new mattress specs, he said all new hotels coming into the brand or undergoing a renovation will have to purchase them, but other hotels will finish out current mattress warranties before replacement.
There are numerous new mattress manufacturers hitting the scene, he said, including many that haven’t entered the hotel space before. One of the determining factors when vetting vendors is looking at mattress warranties, he said.
“Some mattresses might have a five- or seven-year warranty on them. That to us means the mattress will need to be replaced relatively soon, so our basis is it’s got to have at least a 10-year warranty,” he said.
Pohl said using platform beds in place of traditional box springs is one way North American hotels have recently adopted European influences. In addition to design opportunities, platform beds can offer cost savings too, he said.
The Premier brand still uses box springs in its beds, he said, but Best Western’s newer Vib and Glo brands use a platform bed design. Having that design does not detract from the sleep experience, and it’s as good as having a box spring, he added.
Platform beds also make the furniture more multipurpose, he said. Designs include drawers as well as headboards that can double as desks.
“We’ve seen a lot more of the upscale and upper-midscale boutique hotels designing the room around a platform type bed,” he said.
Beds in the Vib brand also have zip-off pillow tops on the mattresses, which allows hotels to replace the pillow top without having to replace the entire mattress.
“The days of flipping and turning mattresses has evolved,” he said. “You still turn them to make sure you get the life span out of them, but mattresses are pretty well manufactured these days, so there’s not a lot of maintenance and upkeep required.”
Pohl noted it is difficult to determine the return on investment on mattress types because some people like hard mattresses while others like soft. Having a lack of complaints is a good indication that guests are satisfied, he said. At times, Best Western will even have guests who want to purchase its mattresses, he said.
“That’s always a really good indicator that you’re providing something that they like,” he said.
For Wyndham Hotels and Resorts’ Microtel brand, Keri Putera, VP of brand operations, said brand standards are constantly updated with the best linens, bedding, mattresses and pillows. Everything has to be top-notch, she said.
Microtel ranked highest for the economy segment in the JD Power survey.
Manley said most of his properties in the Stonebridge portfolio use two-sided mattresses, although many others in the industry are transitioning to one-sided mattress. Having two-sided mattress allows hotel staff to flip and rotate the mattresses quarterly to extend lifespan.
The rest of the sleep experience
Putera said comfort and convenience are the two main priorities for providing a satisfactory guest stay, especially when it comes to sleep.
“They really want that convenient room, that comfortable bed, but at a price that doesn’t make them feel like they’re paying for extras that they don’t need,” she said.
Microtel recently rolled out its new prototype, Moda, which is all about style and efficiency, she said. Microtel continues to use wall-hung beds and furniture, which gives guests more floor space, she added.
However, it’s not solely about the bed. She said some of the top factors behind a poor night’s sleep include jetlag, unfamiliar routines and stress. That’s why Microtel focuses on other aspects of a night’s stay such as 24-hour coffee in the lobby and a breakfast in the morning.
“It’s all about the things they need without muddling that message,” she said.
Pohl said Best Western will offer things like ear plugs on request, especially at properties near airports, but automatically giving them to guests at traditional properties can create a bad impression that the hotel is noisy.
Sources agreed that if a guest has a bad night’s stay, it could affect whether or not that guest will remain loyal and return the next time.
Manley said there are a lot of operational concerns to ensure guests have a quality night’s sleep. Stonebridge’s job as an operator is controlling the quality of linens, age of mattresses and where the company can and should invest capital, he said.
Linens are a big expense, he said, adding that he notices too many operators, especially newer managers, are trying to save expenses by not ordering enough linens. In return, that can cause issues when the hotel can’t maintain its linen par levels.
In order to maintain years of satisfaction, Pohl said it is crucial that a brand not only listens to its customers but also solicits feedback from its owners and GMs.
“We meet with that focus group twice a year to understand what are the guests telling you, how can we move the brand forward, what types of enhancements can we make,” he said. “Not only do we get great feedback, but when you take that approach, they are 100% committed to making it happen within the brand themselves because they are the owners of those hotels and the costs is theirs to bear.”
By: Dana Miller
Originally appeared in Hotel Management in July, 2019
Denver-based hotel owner, operator and developer Stonebridge Companies made two high-level appointments recently, naming Rob Hazard VP of real estate and John Davis VP of asset management. The two additions to the company’s leadership will support the company as it targets further growth. Currently, Stonebridge’s portfolio consists of 62 hotels with more than 10,500 guestrooms nationwide.
As VP of real estate, Hazard will oversee the firm’s development portfolio. During his more than 25 years in the hospitality industry he has supported the development teams at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Westin Hotels & Resorts and Interstate Hotels & Resorts. Most recently, he oversaw Hersha Hospitality Trust’s acquisitions and development platform as SVP.
Davis now oversees asset management on a large portion of Stonebridge’s portfolio with a focus on maximizing hotel operating performance and capital investments. Previously, he served as VP of asset management for Woodbine Development Corp., asset manager for Broadreach Capital Partners and director of finance and accounting for four Marriott International properties.
“We couldn’t be more pleased to welcome such talent to our leadership team at Stonebridge Companies,” COO Chris Manley said in a statement. “Not only will these seasoned professionals further enhance our company’s continued growth, but they will also support our team of dedicated associates as we expand our commitment to providing distinguished hospitality to our guests.”
By: Chuck Dobrosielski
Originally appeared in RED MSU Denver in July, 2019
Bryson Cayaban brings the Hawaiian tradition of treating guests like family to his career in hospitality.
Growing up on the island of Kaua’i, Bryson Cayaban received an early introduction to the Hawaiian tradition of treating others like ‘Ohana’ – family.
“My family is deeply involved in the hospitality and food-service industries on Kaua’i – from engineering to housekeeping,” he said. “Both of my grandfathers also worked on sugar plantations for most of their lives.”
In addition to a family history of hospitality, Cayaban’s grandparents were determined to give their children and grandchildren access to higher education. “My grandfather called education ‘the golden key’ – the key to success,” he said. “It is important for me to continue my family’s legacy of education and honor their sacrifices.”
After graduating from high school in 2013, Cayaban searched for a city on the mainland where he could attend college and build a life. Denver’s diverse population, active city life and weather proved a perfect fit for the Hawaii native. Originally a political-science major at the University of Colorado Denver, Cayaban got involved in student government, which gave him the chance to plan events around campus.
“My interest in hospitality was becoming an undeniable passion,” he said. “I even started working in guest services at a private country club when I returned home on break.”
During a trip home for Thanksgiving break in 2015, Cayaban spent time considering the possibility of turning his passion into a career. After returning to Denver and meeting with Chad Gruhl, Ph.D., professor of hotel management with the School of Hospitality, Events and Tourism (HEaT), he chose to transfer to the Metropolitan State University of Denver hotel-management program the following spring.
“The School of HEaT faculty hooked me on MSU Denver,” he said. “They have years of real-world experience to share, and they want you to succeed.”
Two years later, talking to a classmate about their experience as a Dimond Fellow alerted Cayaban to an unexpected opportunity. He had enough credits to graduate in December 2018, and his family was flying from Kaua’i to join him, but he was tempted to apply for the Rita and Navin Dimond Fellows Program.
In 2014, a generous gift made by Rita and Navin Dimond – founders of Stonebridge Companies, a Denver-based, privately owned, innovative hotel owner, operator and developer – established the Rita and Navin Dimond Fellows Program. The program allows recipients to gain hands-on experience at select Stonebridge Companies properties across Denver. The Dimond Fellows Program accepts students twice a year, selecting among applicants who have completed a minimum of 60 credits toward any School of HEaT degree program.
With a fast-approaching deadline, Cayaban quickly completed the application. “I was not confident I’d be selected,” he said, “but a voice in the back of my mind told me to apply.”
While waiting to learn his fellowship fate, Cayaban continued his daily routine of attending classes, followed by walking to his job in guest services at the Four Seasons Hotel Denver. Right before graduation he was invited to become a Dimond Fellow. Acceptance meant taking one more class and staying at MSU Denver for an additional semester.
“It was a personal decision to extend my academic program,” he said. “I felt like I wasn’t done.”
As planned, Cayaban’s family joined him in December to watch him achieve his dream of earning his degree – five years after dropping him off at a dorm room over 3,000 miles from home.
“I was proud to bring my family to MSU Denver,” he said. “They were in awe of Commencement and President (Janine) Davidson’s speech, and amazed by my fellowship site and the HLC facilities.”
That spring, Cayaban began his fellowship at Stonebridge Companies’ Renaissance Hotel – Denver Downtown City Center, housed in Denver’s historic Colorado National Bank building. Stonebridge Companies purchased the space, which had been slated for demolition, in 2011 and renovated it in a way that honors the history and architecture of the original building – keeping murals from 1925 in the lobby and bank vaults in meeting spaces.
“Every Stonebridge Companies property is unique,” Cayaban said. “The Dimonds do an amazing job of honoring the past while building the future.”
The fellowship taught Cayaban how to run a successful hotel. He built relationships with hotel staff and came to understand the ins and outs of the hotel’s major departments – including engineering, housekeeping, guest services, marketing, operations and more.
“It is a privilege to provide guests with a sense of home while they are away,” he said. “In Hawaii, we refer to that as ‘ohana.’ Ohana means family.”
With his fellowship complete, Cayaban continues to work at the Four Seasons, with plans to attend graduate school. He is proud to have been able to connect his family’s commitment to education with the missions of MSU Denver and Stonebridge Companies.
“When I got to Denver, I was all alone – I am grateful for the warm welcome I received,” he said. “The cherry on top was my Stonebridge experience. I will always be an ambassador for my MSU Denver and Stonebridge families.”
By: Lynne Winter