New Visit Aurora director tasked with making city a top travel destination

It’s not just because his last few months have been spent living in many of Aurora’s top-tier lodging establishments — including the Hyatt Regency, the Crowne Plaza and about a half-dozen other hotels around town. Although, that living-out-of-his-suitcase lifestyle as he looks for a more-permanent Aurora address has certainly helped

AURORA | Bruce Dalton knows his way around the hotel business the way a good bellman knows their way around a Samsonite.

And there’s a reason for that.

20170516-Visit Aurora-Aurora, Colorado

Bruce Dalton, the new executive director of Visit Aurora, poses for a photo with Gaylord Rockies in the background on Tuesday May 16, 2017. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

It’s not just because his last few months have been spent living in many of Aurora’s top-tier lodging establishments — including the Hyatt Regency, the Crowne Plaza and about a half-dozen other hotels around town. Although, that living-out-of-his-suitcase lifestyle as he looks for a more-permanent Aurora address has certainly helped.

The hotel biz is simply in Dalton’s DNA. His mom was an executive in the industry and he spent large chunks of his youth staying in hotels.

When Dalton was old enough to join the labor force, he landed his first job as a bellman — handling luggage and welcoming guests at the Twin Bridges Marriott in Arlington, Virginia.

“That’s a very important part of my life, starting out as a bellman, understanding that in the hotel (business) you deal with all different types of people,” Dalton said. 

In March, Visit Aurora announced that the former bellhop and hotel aficianado would take the helm of the city’s visitors bureau, an agency tasked with making Aurora an in-demand locale for tourists and travelers.

Dalton’s appointment comes as the city is on the verge of a seismic shift in Aurora’s hotel scene, with the massive Gaylord Rockies project set to open in 2019.

Coming most recently from the Convention and Visitors Bureau in Grapevine, Texas — home to the Gaylord Texan resort and conference center — and, before that having worked in Gaylord’s home base of Nashville, Tennessee, Dalton’s familiarity with Gaylord runs deep.

The company, Dalton said, has mastered the convention circuit by offering big groups the sorts of multi-year deals that other chains cannot. And when the Gaylord Rockies opens in 2019 and joins Gaylord properties near Washington, D.C., in Texas and elsewhere, Aurora joins that circuit, he said.

“Gaylord really became the kings of those multi-year agreements,” he said.

Gian Gandolfo, chairman of Visit Aurora, said in a statement announcing Dalton’s hiring that he was the ideal fit for Aurora.

“After a thorough and deliberate vetting process, the Board of Directors could not be happier with our selection of Bruce Dalton as we navigate through the evolving and expanding landscape of our destination,” he said. “Bruce’s experience in hospitality will help us continue to attract both large and small business event groups to the region. We look forward to seeing his leadership in action as the Visit Aurora team elevates Aurora as the thriving and sought after destination that it is.”

Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan also cheered the hiring in the statement.

“Because of Visit Aurora’s tremendous efforts, the city’s reputation as a leading Colorado destination continues to grow. I look forward to working with Bruce as he leads the way in growing and enhancing Visit Aurora’s programs and initiatives,” he said.

Dalton said he will be a champion for Aurora, but he doesn’t want to limit the agency to Aurora’s geographical borders.

“A visitor doesn’t know the boundaries between Centennial and Aurora, or where Stapelton is and Aurora isn’t,” he said. “We are going to have to cross some of those boundaries and understand how we can sell Aurora as a destination, but utilize some of those attractions.”

That means not shying away from the fact that visitors to Aurora may want to visit Red Rocks or some of the attractions in and around Downtown Denver.

“We want them to stay and spend money in Aurora at our hotels and eat and drink, then go to those places, and come back,” he said.