Sky Ute Casino Resort

Sky Ute Casino 1

Sky Ute Casino Resort creates an immersive guest experience while continuing to improve its property

to remain competitive in the ever-changing gaming and hospitality industry.

By Janice Hoppe-Spiers, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media

The Ute people are the oldest residents of Colorado, inhabiting the mountains and vast areas of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, eastern Nevada, northern New Mexico and Arizona. Tribal history handed down from generation to generation states that the Ute people have lived in this region since the beginning of time.

Located in the diverse Four Corners region of the United States that attracts more than a million tourists annually, Sky Ute Casino Resort is celebrating its 10th anniversary as a destination for locals and tourists, alike. Travis Garlick, Sky Ute Casino Resort’s director of operations has been with the Southern Ute Tribe for 22 years and has been involved since the conceptual development of the Tribe’s most recent casino property.

“To see the evolution from 1996 when I started to where the Southern Ute Tribe is now is probably when I have the most pride for the property,” Garlick says. “The Ute Tribe entered into lodging in 1971. They had a little 35-room lodge and restaurant they operated themselves Sky Ute Casino Resortfor years. In 1988, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act passed, which allowed casino operations on Native American reservations and in 1993 the Southern Ute tribe expanded the old property and entered casino operations, which was an enormous success. In 2007, they broke ground on the existing property and in 2008 moved in.”

When the Southern Ute Tribe first started its gaming operation, it had the market cornered as one of only two casino operators in southwest Colorado. “The original property was definitely a local casino, but expanded as the economy grew in the area and destination travel increased,” Garlick says. “We recognized the casino and hotel business as an emerging market and opportunity, which was the foundation for the development of a new casino resort to capture the traffic coming through the Four Corners region.”

Gaining Marketshare

Sky Ute Casino Resort is well positioned to capture diverse revenue channels. Its resort casino clientele is the company’s main market, but it also appeals to local casino guests who use Sky Ute Casino Resort for their staycations. “We look at local markets in terms of drive time,” Garlick says. “We classify overnight customers within a two- to three-hour drive as staycationers. We are good at data analysis so we can do an in-depth review of the hotel database and player development.”

Sky Ute Casino Resort also boasts 22,000 square feet of meeting and conference space, as well as a strong entertainment program with a venue that can handle up to 2,000 people. “We are the largest conference center in the Four Corners area and we cornered that market,” Garlick notes. “It is strong for us from a yield management standpoint.”

Today, renovations are ongoing to the Sky Ute Casino Resort conference space, hotel rooms and food and beverage offerings. “We are always analyzing and making sure we are keeping up with trends in the casino and resort space,” Garlick notes. “In the last 10 years, the competitive landscape has changed – we went from two casinos in our competitive market to five since 1993 – but we built this property to grow into it as we gain marketshare.”

Immersive Experience

When building the Sky Ute Casino Resort, the Southern Ute Tribal Council, which acts as the board of directors, was adamant about highlighting and showcasing the Southern Ute Tribe. “The tribe is the longest continuous residents of the state of Colorado – more than 2,000 years,” Garlick says. “The history of the Southern Ute Tribe in Colorado is rich. They were a nomadic tribe, which from an architectural standpoint that was challenging.”

Sky Ute Casino Resort 2The Southern Ute Tribe allocated a multi-million-dollar budget for sculptures and artwork throughout the 55-acre property. “You will see sculptures of running horses as you enter the casino and bronze sculptures of buffalo throughout the property,” Garlick says. “On the property are works that were in the Smithsonian that we brought back. When you enter a resort room, each room has historic photos of the tribe and tribe members. Each of our suites are dedicated to prominent tribal member.”

In addition to paying tribute to the tribe’s culture, Sky Ute Casino Resort also provides travelers with a cultural experience. “I think we deliver that all day long,” Garlick says. “After the casino was built, the tribe built a beautiful Southern Ute Museum and Cultural Center, which is a separate building on site. Tribal membership along with the museum board took years to develop it and it is a remarkable display of the Southern Ute Tribe.”

Tapping into Tech

Sky Ute Casino Resort implements the latest technology as it relates to reputation management and customer engagement. “One of the focuses for anyone in the industry is to keep pace with innovation and technology coming out,” Garlick says. “The entire industry is changing because of these technologies and that needs to be on everyone’s mind.”

For example, the casino resort partners with Revinate, which offers an easy-to-use guest marketing and CRM solution specialized for hotels. “They monitor all the websites and funnel the reviews into one location so we can manage and respond accordingly,” Garlick explains. The casino resort also uses TravelClick that connects hotels to travel agencies worldwide, allowing an agency to log onto the global distribution system and find Sky Ute Casino Resort.

The casino resort also uses Triptease to generate a chat experience and sell the property and area, which provides customer engagement. “A unique thing they provide is their design and model is to drive direct bookings,” Garlick says. “They look at rates for all the different channels that are out there.”

Moving forward, Sky Ute Casino Resort will continue to focus on technology, trends and changes in legislation related to the gaming industry. “The two big things for us as a casino are the changes in sports betting and online gaming. Not only do we have to watch Colorado legislation, but also New Mexico and even Arizona,” Garlick says. “Even with all the changes, the one thing we realized is that people still want an experience, an experience that cannot be had in an online setting and can only be had in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting.”

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