Blame it on Airbnb, the local-first movement, or Instagram, but travelers today are increasingly uninterested in generic, cookie-cutter hotels. They crave lodging options with unique characteristics that communicate something about the locales they’re visiting, that go beyond offering just a place to sleep, and they’re willing to forgo brand loyalty and rewards to get that authentic vibe. “The experience economy has really taken full hold of the industry, and millennials are driving that,” says David Corsun, director of the University of Denver’s Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management. Nationally and here in Colorado, the shift has forced big-box chains to develop hip brands that will appeal to a younger, lifestyle-oriented demographic as well as opened up the market to smaller, upscale boutique properties—sometimes in neighborhoods far from convention centers and traditional tourist destinations.

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