I’m probably dating myself, but I remember when Courtyard by Marriott hotels started opening thirty years ago in the Boston area. The first time I stayed in one, I realized what a great concept they were. Simple, clean, practical hotels with nice, business-focused extras at a very reasonable price. If you were staying in a Courtyard by Marriott, you knew what you were getting and what to expect. (An aside--who remembers those special hot-water facets that poured almost boiling water out for coffee or tea? Nice idea, but I can understand why they’re no longer part of the picture).
It’s been 30 years since they first opened, and Courtyard by Marriott is still going strong. According to Marriott, Courtyard is now the 12th largest hotel brand in the world, with 1,000 (or more) hotels in 38 countries around the world.
To catch up with the brand, and get some insights into not only where it’s been, but where it’s going, I interviewed Janis Milham, senior vice president, Marriott Modern Essentials and Extended Stay Brands.
Can you provide a brief overview of the history of Courtyard?
Courtyard started in 1983 and created a new segment in the industry, namely select-service hotels. Back then the only real options were full service hotels in city center and “Mom and Pop” roadside motels. We were the first to develop a new kind of product in suburban markets, a business hotel designed by business travelers for business travelers.
What was the original intent of Courtyard? What did Courtyard initially do differently than other hotel options?
We offered a business hotel that had just what the business traveler needed, not more and not less. We were located in suburban areas where the business traveler needed to stay. We were a value conscious brand and did not include such services as room service, bellmen that this group of traveler did not want or need.
Why was Courtyard successful?
We have always talked to customers to find out what their needs and desires were for a hotel. We have always used the customer as our “true North” and designed from there. We are constantly striving to improve ourselves and evolve based on how the customer has changed over the years.
What’s changed with business travel/business travelers?
Technology has had the greatest impact on how business travelers have changed over the last 3 decades. They used to get to the hotel and check in and go to the room to get work done. They were tethered to their desk and internet connection line. Now they get work done along the way with the variety of mobile technology devices they travel with. Now, they get to the hotel and want to get work done but also to have other options. Travelers today are looking for multi functional lobbies and rooms. They want to both relax and get work done. They need flexible space to socialize and at the same time be productive.
What’s changed with Courtyard in the 30 years?
We have re-invented ourselves to better meet the needs of constantly changing traveler demands. We have new room designs and new lobbies to accommodate the need for flexibility. Food and beverage has evolved significantly over the past 30 years. Gone are the sit down restaurants and huge breakfast buffets. We now have fast casual dining that offers fresher and healthier options for our guests.
How does Courtyard differentiate itself today, with so many more potential competitors offering practical, business-oriented travel options?
We try to differentiate our product amongst our competitors. For example, our Bistro which provides fast casual dining for breakfast and dinner is unique for our tier. We were the first to publish calorie count due to the desire for this group of traveler to be more health conscious. We have also just released a new room design with several unique and signature features most notably the LoungeAround sofa, Tech Drop and Shower Nook. But at the end of the day what really sets us apart from our competitors are our people and the warm and personalized service they provide. We have the BEST people in the industry.
Where will Courtyard be in 3-5 years?
What types of changes might business travelers be seeing? Technology will continue to evolve and so will Courtyard. Things that you will see us offering in the near future includes: mobile check-in, mobile food and beverage ordering, more personalized service, etc.
Any other questions I missed that you would like me to know about?
Courtyard reached 1,000 hotels in early 2015. It is Marriott International’s second largest revenue generator and a category killer in its segment. Located in 38 countries, its popularity is growing quickly with more than 180 hotels already in the pipeline.