Renovated hotel aimed at growing market
What: The Hotel Talisa, formerly the Vail Cascade.
Owners: The Laurus Corp.
Management: Destination Hotels.
Opening date: March 1.
VAIL — This town is often nearly booked full on the weekends, and group business is growing. The new owners of the former Vail Cascade Resort & Spa hotel want to tap that market.
The Vail Cascade, built in the early 1980s, was purchased about a year ago by the Laurus Corp., a Los Angeles-based real estate investment company. Not long after the purchase, Laurus announced it would completely renovate the hotel, with all-new rooms and a new name. The new hotel would be aimed at luxury travelers and high-end groups.
The Hotel Talisa was supposed to open in December, but a combination of factors have delayed that opening until March 1.
While the Cascade had been remodeled a few times since it was built, Laurus CEO Phil Cyburt said the hotel had never been the subject of an extensive renovation. That project, which involves moving walls and plumbing lines, has brought any number of “that isn’t supposed to be there” surprises, Cyburt said. Add in difficulty in finding labor for the project, and a delay in delivery of various furnishings and fixtures, and the project was delayed about 90 days.
“But March 1 is our date and we’re sticking with it,” Cyburt said in a recent interview.
“It’s actually easier to build a building than to do everything to it,” Cyburt added. “We underestimated a few things.”
Employees will return
When the hotel does open, general manager John Garth said he expects “95 percent” of last season’s employees to return. Some have been working at other lodges in the valley operated by Destination Hotels, the company that operated the Cascade and will operate the Hotel Talisa. Others are working on the renovation.
Laurus has continued to cover benefits and extended the ski pass program to full-time Cascade employees.
Garth said more than 80 of the roughly 200 full-time hotel employees have worked at the Cascade for 10 years or more. He expects almost all of them to return.
“There’s a real excitement and enthusiasm for this project,” Garth said.
To attract a higher-end traveler, Laurus has put the Hotel Talisa into the reservation and marketing system of the Starwood Luxury Collection. The hotel will meet that group’s standards.
And, it seems, the newly renovated hotel has the potential to fill a good number of the property’s more than 280 rooms on a regular basis.
The Vail Valley Partnership is the valley’s regional chamber of commerce. It also has a reservations arm, and a group sales division.
Partnership CEO Chris Romer said Vail fills to 90 percent or more occupancy regularly during the ski season, as well as the summer months between June and early September.
With weekends already a largely mature market, the growth potential is during weekdays, particularly from Sunday night to Wednesday night. Those rooms are increasingly being filled by group business, mostly corporate incentive trips, sales meetings and seminars.
The Cascade stayed busy with group business through much of the spring, fall and summer seasons. Garth said the Hotel Talisa expects to continue that business. But, like moving up-market with its guest rooms, Garth said the hotel also plans to make a similar move in the group business world.
Groups in that niche include medical education seminars, meetings of auto dealers and pharmaceutical companies.
“The group response has been fabulous,” Garth said. “Bookings in 2018 and beyond has been going very well.”
Romer said group business in the valley as a whole is growing significantly. As of the end of November, the valley’s group bookings for 2016 were up 30 percent. Group business in the pipeline, but not yet booked, is up 38 percent over the previous year.
Romer said there appears to be room in the Vail Valley market for higher-end meeting space. The upgraded space in the Hotel Talisa will create more opportunities for other hotels in the valley to book groups that had used the Cascade’s facilities, Romer said. Many of those groups are loyal to Vail and would be happy to hold their meetings in other hotels, Romer said.
There’s a good bit of competition for the kind of group business the Hotel Talisa seeks. But, Romer said, the new hotel won’t be competing with Vail’s Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons, but with other resort areas.
“The competition here is Aspen, it’s the Broadmoor (in Colorado Springs), it’s Cancun,” Romer said. “There’s group business out there to be had.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.