Element hotel in Basalt aims to mine Aspen ski market
November 27, 2015
The general manager of the Element Basalt-Aspen is eager for the new hotel to open Dec. 8 because he thinks it will be successful right out of the gate.
Michael Welly and his staff are scrambling to put final touches on some rooms and common areas while construction crews are completing other parts of the 113-room facility. The hotel is part of the Element by Westin brand under the Starwood Hotels and Resorts umbrella. It is located in Willits Town Center.
Welly, a hospitality-industry veteran who previously oversaw hotels in Steamboat Springs and Telluride, said the proximity to Aspen will boost Element's winter occupancy.
"I was shocked how close it is," he said.
Basalt Bike and Ski will have a satellite shop at the hotel in Willits Town Center that offers ski rentals and storage. Hotel patrons can catch a bus to the upvalley ski areas that departs 50 yards outside the front door.
There are 13 styles of rooms in the hotel, but all have kitchens to cater to guests on extended stays. The most prevalent setup is the room with double queen beds, a full refrigerator and a two-burner oven. The winter rate will be just over $250 per night, so it will be attractive to skiers who don't want to pay upvalley prices, Welly said.
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Element Basalt-Aspen is marketing itself to individuals and families coming to the Roaring Fork Valley for adventure during summers. Welly anticipates strong allure with anglers, since the gold-medal trout waters of the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers are so close. The hotel also is emphasizing being located in the middle of the valley, with easy access to the outdoors and recreation amenities offered in Aspen and Glenwood Springs.
The hotel also aims to capitalize on people visiting the Roaring Fork Valley for special events and weddings.
Summer rates will be slightly lower than winter, Welly said.
Plan anticipated 65 percent occupancy
When the Basalt Town Council reviewed the hotel proposal, the developers brought in a consultant that talked about potential occupancies. Hunden Strategic Partners told the council the hotel would achieve a 65 percent annual average occupancy about four years after opening — which would mean by 2020. The company said the number of annual visitors would climb from 49,000 the first year to 64,000 by Year 10.
Welly said he believes the hotel can exceed those early projections, though he acknowledged there is a wild card.
"The influence of mud season is a big impact on occupancy," he said.
Nevertheless, he likes the hotel's chances to outperform for a couple of reasons. First, there is the appeal of being located within Willits Town Center. The hotel doesn't have a restaurant and won't offer food service. A complimentary hot breakfast will be served in the lobby every morning, but guests are on their own for lunch and dinner. Several good restaurants are within walking distance, he noted, and Whole Foods Market is just across the parking lot. He believes Element guests will appreciate the options open to them.
Second, he believes Basalt as a whole offers a strong setting that will attract customers.
Welly has reason for optimism, according to Ralf Garrison, president of a company called DestiMetrics, which tracks occupancy and reservations for mountain destination resorts in six states. Garrison said Element is opening at a perfect time. Occupancy rates at upvalley hotels have been strong in recent years and supply isn't increasing, he noted.
In a broader context, Garrison said midvalley property owners are facing increasing incentives to rent their property short-term to tourists rather than long-term to valley residents. The opening of Element will absorb a large chunk of the demand for lodging, he said.
Big boost to town coffers
Element features a large, open lobby that Welly likened to a "big living room." There will be a large television and numerous places to sit. Bonfire Coffee will open a small shop that is connected but walled off from the lobby. The coffee shop will be open to the public.
The hotel includes a business center, a 625-square-foot meeting room, laundry service, an exercise room, a saltwater pool and an outdoor courtyard that features a hot tub and a barbecuing area.
The hotel chain doesn't know what to expect yet for extended versus short stays. The Element at Park Meadows in Lakewood is averaging two-night stays, Welly said. He said he could see the average stay being three nights in Basalt.
Basalt's coffers are expected to get a significant bump from the hotel. The developer's consultant said the town will reap about $1.34 million in additional sales and lodging taxes over a 10-year period after the hotel opens. That is just direct spending at the hotel and doesn't factor in spending by hotel patrons on food and services outside the hotel.
Denver company Silverwest LLC teamed with the Willits Town Center owner, Mariner Real Estate Management LLC of Kansas City, to build the hotel. It received LEED Silver certification for its energy-efficiency characteristics.
Element Basalt-Aspen is taking reservations at http://www.elementbasaltaspen.com. Roaring Fork Valley residents are being offered an introductory rate of $69 per night between Dec. 8 and 22. Residents throughout Colorado are being offered a discount of 10 percent off the best available rates through May 31. Valley and state residents must prove residency to get the deals.