Hotel riches for not much money

Juice and milk breakfast lineup at Hyatt Place Denver Airport (photo by Sheila Scarborough)Two hotel experiences, two price points, one conclusion: luxury is great and sometimes worth it, but maximum value may come at a lower price point.

Right before this year’s TBEX travel blogging conference in Colorado, I stayed at what is called a “select service” hotel in Denver. The next two nights I stayed at a luxury boutique hotel.

Both were welcoming and comfortable with exceptionally pleasant, friendly staff members. Here were the big differences:

1)  The luxury Hotel Teatro was better located downtown, the bed was ridiculously, sink-in-till-you-wanna-die comfortable and the shower head created one of the best waterfall showers I’ve ever had. The WiFi was complimentary – THANK you because that’s sadly unusual at a fancy place – but there was no free breakfast. There was lots of non-chain-hotel ambiance. There was a turn-down service, but that’s not something that trips my trigger (in fact, I find it intrusive, even with the little chocolate thingies.)  Cost: about US$270/night and up.

2)  The select service, mid-range Hyatt Place Denver Airport hotel was way out by, well, the airport (duh.) They do have a free airport shuttle, but getting downtown costs US$40-ish one way. The bed was quite comfortable although not “ridiculously” so, the shower head was fine, the WiFi was free and fast and breakfast was the new (and very generous) “a.m. Kitchen Skillet” spread that Hyatt Place recently introduced. This hotel also has a lobby bar plus 24 hour grab n’ go food, AND a smallish but quite adequate 24-hour menu of made-to-order meals and snacks. Cost: about US$150/night and up.

Kitchen Skillet breakfast options Hyatt Place hotels (photo by Sheila Scarborough)Now, although I’ve said before that full service hotels aren’t worth my money, I will say that Denver’s Teatro provided an outstanding experience for the rates that they charge. I may or may not have been swayed by that DIVINE bed and shower, of course.

The Hyatt Place, however, like so many mid-range hotels, provides a truly impressive return on one’s lodging investment. What the traveler gets at that price point is only getting better as far as I can see….swank new lobbies at many SpringHill Suites, free Manager’s Receptions at Embassy Suites, even zippy decorating schemes at Motel 6.

While munching on the morning’s Hyatt Place Cinnamon-Glazed French Toast – they alternate with Belgian Waffles – I spoke at length with Susi Keating, the friendly hotel General Manager at the Denver Airport property.

Hyatt Place General Manager checks on her breakfast guests (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

She asked how I liked my breakfast;  when I said that it was good, she said, “Well, we want it to be great! We want this to feel like your home.”

It didn’t seem like one of those icky scripted marketing moments, either, because I’d watched her bustle back and forth for quite awhile, fussing over each of the guests, the exact position of each of the plates and glasses in the breakfast area and the refill level of the food and drink sections.

The Kitchen Skillet breakfast initiative is one way that Hyatt Place competes in the crowded and competitive mid-range hotel field. Along with cold cereals, pastries, fruit, yogurts and steel cut oatmeal, there’s a rotating group of hot egg options presented in bright red skillets, including the Santa Fe Bagel (with ham, egg, cheese, fresh spinach and tomato, chipotle mayo) and the “HP Signature Sandwich” of potato roll, egg, applewood smoked bacon and smoke Gouda cheese.

Call it “Breakfast Wars” or whatever you want, but hotel offerings like that are a very attractive value for a traveler like me.

The airline experience is getting worse and worse if you’re flying coach and live on a tight budget, but once you finally arrive wherever it is, you can be assured that the hotel industry is fighting hard for your business. It’s a nice feeling!

Disclosure:  In Denver as a speaker at the TBEX conference, I was a guest of both the Hyatt Place and the Hotel Teatro. If I return to Denver, I would have no problem paying full price myself for either property – they both excelled in their niche.

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