When the opportunity to work on Gaylord Rockies, Gaylord Hotels’ latest and greatest project, came around, industry vet Michael Kofsky couldn’t turn it down. “The odds of finding a 1,500-room hotel built from scratch were too good for me to pass up,” says Kofsky, who was the director of sales and marketing at Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego at the time.
In the fall of 2015, Kofsky assumed the role of director of sales for Gaylord Rockies, the $800 million property outside Denver in Aurora, Colorado, slated for completion in late 2018. Riding a wave of success from selling what’s said to be the largest hotel development project in the United States right now, Kofsky says he’s just getting started. We sat down with him to learn more about the project.
How will this property differ from other Gaylord resorts?
We like to say this is like building our fifth house. We’re able to incorporate things that have worked well in the other four, yet have the ability to make some changes from the ground up. A big difference from our other hotels is more flexibility in our exhibit hall. We’ll have a 50,000-sq.-ft. ballroom that opens into a 125,000-sq.-ft. exhibit space. The beauty is that the ballroom is fully carpeted with no pillars, so it has a lot of flexibility for groups that aren’t using it for a full exhibit hall show. Second, a lot of Gaylord hotels have a number of rooms that look out over the expansive atriums. This hotel will have very few rooms looking over the Grand Lodge, and more with views of the Rocky Mountains. Third, it will have a compact footprint, so when you’re walking from the resort side to the convention side, it’s easy to navigate.
Why was this location in Aurora a good fit?
Denver has the ability to be a central or a West Coast location. Gaylord didn’t have a West Coast presence, so this filled a need from our existing customer base. We’re booking a lot of groups that couldn’t book Gaylord for their West Coast rotation before, and it’s also allowed us to go after a whole new group of customers.
A reported 180,000 room nights are already on the books for meetings. What do you make of that success?
The amount of leads we’ve seen since we started selling in January 2016 has exceeded our expectations, and we had high expectations out of the gate. Of the room nights we’ve booked so far, 60 percent of those are multiyear contracts in conjunction with other Gaylord hotels, and 88 percent have never met in Colorado before. We have a pretty lofty preopening sales goal, and we’re pacing where we need to be.