|This Business Travel Guide to Denver is provided in interview with Chris Thelen, CEO North America, Corporate Travel Management (CTM).
As Denver recently hit the top five ranks for business travel in the US, it is no surprise that Chris Thelen is making the most of his time in Colorado. Chris is a Londoner at heart, spending most of his life in the UK. After hopping the pond in July 2016, he is now guiding the vision for CTM in North America from the headquarters in Denver.
Q. WHAT MAKES DENVER A GREAT PLACE TO VISIT FOR BUSINESS?
A: Residing as a central hub between the East and West coasts, Denver continues to grow as a destination for national meetings and events. The city is easily accessible, providing many choices for hotels, dining and entertainment. As you explore the city, you’re surrounded by blue sky and spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains.
Denver has grown to offer every accommodation a business traveller could ever need. Each year, more than 50 million travellers pass through the Denver International Airport (DIA), and while it stays busy, I have always had a great experience at the airport. Coming from London, with Heathrow Airport as the key hub and only two runways, DIA is a dream—it runs very efficiently.
Q. IN YOUR OPINION, WHICH IS THE BEST AREA OF DENVER TO STAY IN WHEN TRAVELLING FOR BUSINESS?
A: Denver has wonderful hotel options, which nearly all include complete meeting and event amenities, even if you want to plan your business nearby in the mountains.
- For a historic treat, The Oxford Hotel or The Brown Palace Hotel are local and tourist favorites, taking you back to the high society of the Gold Rush days
- Hotel Indigo and “the ART, a hotel” offer Colorado-style modern-earth charm
- If you’re in a time crunch, the new Westin Denver International Airport hotel is a 10-minute walk from the main terminal at the airport, and The Crawford Hotel welcomes visitors from inside downtown Denver’s remodeled Union Station
- If you’re heading to the high country, don’t miss The Sky Hotel in Aspen, a colorful, mod-cabin concept with ski-in access and many surrounding activities
Q. IF RECOMMENDING A PLACE TO HOLD AN UNFORGETTABLE BUSINESS MEETING IN DENVER, WHERE WOULD IT BE?
A: Denver is a destination for travellers all throughout the year. To meet that demand, nearly every hot spot devotes equal attention to accommodate business interactions, as to entertainment and sightseeing:
- The Westin DIA holds more than 300,000 square feet of conference space, including 15 meeting rooms, two ballrooms, and an outdoor plaza for arts and entertainment, not to mention floor-to-sky views of the Rocky Mountains and Colorado’s high plains
- The Crawford Hotel offers eight meeting rooms, award-winning on-site local restaurants, as well as social space within the Union Station Great Hall and outdoor plaza
- For private spaces and start-studded cuisine, visit Panzano, situated inside Hotel Monaco downtown, or the historic Denver Chophouse, just minutes away from Coors Field
- For a fun-filled business gathering, don’t miss the Wynkoop Brewing Company, Denver’s most historic brewpub and restaurant, offering private spaces and an upstairs pool hall
- Travellers can even venture just 20 minutes from downtown, to the elegant shopping district of Cherry Creek, for anything from fine dining and sushi, to local happy hour
Q. WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO GET FROM DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT TO THE CITY?
A. The quickest way to get to the city from the airport is by ride-share or taxi service. Many downtown hotels can also book luxury town car services for their guests. Denver also has a light rail system (RTD) that connects to nearly every suburb, with a new stop right inside DIA and direct line to downtown Denver’s Union Station. It’s important to note, the Union Station operates a major regional transportation hub, offering convenient options for bus, light rail, taxi and train travel, all within its central grounds.
Q. BEST PLACES TO TAKE A CLIENT TO DINNER IN THE CITY?
A: Most fine and casual dining restaurants in downtown Denver offer private meeting spaces that can be reserved on the day or in advance. Some personal favorites are:
- Root Down is part of the hip “Highland” neighborhood just north of downtown, with globally-influenced seasonal cuisine (and a flagship restaurant inside DIA)
- Located within a stretch of notable fine-dining restaurants along east 6th Avenue, Fruition delivers one of the best dining experiences you will have in Denver, with flawless menus of ingredients from their own Fruition Farms
- Old Major is also nestled within the Highland neighborhood, bringing a nose-to-tail gastro pub concept, dedicated to “seafood, swine, and wine”
- I just hosted a great Corporate Travel Management client event at Elway’s—Elway’s is always a crowd-pleaser and is essentially-Colorado. Named after Denver Bronco’s famed John Elway, it is a great steakhouse with Colorado-influenced food, and even a touch of European fine-dining feel.
Q. WHAT’S THE BEST AND WORST TIME OF YEAR TO TRAVEL TO DENVER?
A: There’s nearly never a bad time to visit Denver. Colorado claims 300 days of sunshine and four seasons throughout the year that each bring their own unique attraction. But even during winter, I feel like I am always waiting for the snow to come. You will notice various temperature changes, even from one day to the next, so don’t forget to pack layers. Still, the variation in temperature keeps things interesting and doesn’t make for a miserable, long winter, with plenty of warm-up in between days.
Q. ANY OTHER TRAVELLER TIPS TO MAKE FOR A COMFORTABLE STAY IN DENVER?
A: When you arrive to Denver, you will notice frequent references to “5280” or “The Mile-High City.” Denver sits approximately 5,280 feet, or one mile, above sea level (1,609m), making its elevation the highest (major) city in the US. Some visitors have experienced altitude sickness during their stay. Best and easiest way to beat this—always carry a water bottle!
Q. WHAT SHOULD EVERY BUSINESS TRAVELLER EXPERIENCE WHILE IN DENVER?
A: The Denver metro area has more than 100 craft breweries and growing (more than 300 in Colorado), and too-many-to-mention “farm-to-table” restaurants and chefs who are quickly putting Denver’s culinary scene on the map.
If you’re a sports fan, Denver hosts entertainment year round, with eight professional sports teams including football, baseball, hockey, soccer, two lacrosse teams, basketball and rugby.
If you enjoy the arts, catch a show at the Denver Center for Performing Arts Complex which boasts Broadway runs, including any of the dozen small theaters that dot the cityscape, and the Museum of Contemporary Art is also worth a browse.
And that’s all just within the city! An escape to the Rocky Mountains starts just 30 minutes away from downtown, as well as worthy mentions at nearby cities of Boulder and Colorado Springs.
Q. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE CULTURE IN DENVER, COMPARABLE TO OTHER US CITIES?
A: Overall, people are friendly in Colorado. It is common to be greeted with many smiles as you walk down the street, and locals are often eager to offer directions and best-places-to-see while you’re here. There are also so many people who move here and travel here from different places all around the US and the world, which gives us a great diverse crowd of all walks of life.
Q. WHAT DOES DENVER DO BETTER FOR BUSINESS TRAVELLERS THAN ANY OTHER US CITY?
A: Visitors often equate Denver as a bustling city with close access to the glorious Rocky Mountains. There are many other US cities that rival by offering both city and nature pairings, such as San Francisco, Las Vegas or Austin. But with Denver’s immediate growth that demands up-to-date accommodations, our holistic scene of vast urban to outdoor offerings is comparable to none.
All opinions and recommendations are the interviewee’s own. CTM recommends all travellers conduct their own thorough, independent research into their travel destination(s) prior to making any travel decisions, and take out adequate travel insurance prior to travel.