Creating More than “Just” an Airport Hotel 
Kap Malik, FAIA in Hospitality, Hotels

The Westin Denver International Airport (DEN) seamlessly integrates with the DEN Hotel and Transit Center. Image © Gensler

The New York Times recently reported on how the latest travel explosion is redefining the concept of airport hotels. Long seen as a place to spend the night during a tight layover or a flight cancellation, the latest wave of airport hotels now go beyond that traditional functionality and serve as a true gateway to the cities they serve. These new hotels even represent the destination itself. We’ve worked with several clients at the vanguard of this trend, and The Westin Denver International Airport, which will be part of the newly expanded Denver International Airport (DEN) Hotel and Transit Center, is a great example of the type of experience that modern travelers both need and value.

For travelers, this means that the airport, the airport hotel and conference center, and the new transit center with direct train routes to the city, are all in complete harmony. The entire journey is seamless, easily navigable and unique to Denver. As travelers pass through the terminal, they are literally transformed from airplane passenger to hotel guest. They flow easily from their hectic flight to a more relaxing, leisure environment that expresses the spirit of Denver, all while right at the airport.

Image © Gensler

At the center of this new travel experience is the new 519-key Westin hotel and conference center, set to open in November 2015. The hotel provides a warm and welcoming experience, plus unparalleled views of the Rocky Mountains and amenities that even the savviest of travelers will admire. Guest rooms will incorporate new technology and the rooftop pool will provide exquisite views of the surrounding landscape. The main restaurant and other venues will also embody the local culture and spirit.

The pioneering design truly captures the essence of the region and provides visitors to the Mile High City with an immediate a sense of place. A swooping form in steel and glass, the transit hub is inspired by the city of Denver, the surrounding natural environment and the iconic design of the DEN Jeppesen terminal. Its grid shell canopies reflect the sculpted landscape, creating an emotional arrival experience through the use of natural light and well-balanced, proportional space flowing into the hotel lobby and plaza. In the plaza, travelers experience the local culture via concerts, sporting events, farmers markets, and other events programmed throughout the year. It will be a truly memorable experience, like no other airport hotel in the world.

As visitors appreciate the design nuances that provide an experience that is truly unique in an airport hotel, they will also receive the comforts they expect. “Our six Westin pillars are Sleep Well, Eat Well, Play Well, Work Well, Move Well and Feel Well and examples of these pillars will be prominent. When the Westin DEN opens, guests will be treated to Westin’s signature blend of sophistication and rejuvenation, designed to send the guest home feeling even better than when they arrived. We are eagerly anticipating our hotel opening in the Fall of 2015,” said Tom Curley, Area Managing Director and General manager of The Westin DEN.

The Westin Denver International Airport is also highly desirable for meetings and events both small and city-wide. This reflects a larger industry trend, which has grown as travel budgets shrink and efficiencies are scrutinized. These days many companies are looking for alternatives to planning a meeting destination at a plush resort or downtown hotel. The airport conference center is an exciting new option because it minimizes travel logistics and complexity, and the DEN Westin is leading that trend.

The evolution of the airport hotel is an idea whose time has come, and hotel guests, conference attendees and meeting planners have become very savvy over the past few decades, demanding more from their airport and hotel partners. The Westin DEN hotel and conference center, the DEN Transit Center, and the whole airport all work together to create a memorable experience and raise the bar for the entire industry.

Kap Malik is a principal in Gensler’s Los Angeles Office where he helps lead the hospitality practice. Contact him at
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