by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | November 27, 2017

Cheryl-Anne SturkenWhen a hotel brand celebrates 30 years, it's a major milestone in an industry that has been rife with consolidation and launches. And when it's in the select-service sector, which currently represents the biggest chunk of the hotel-development pipeline worldwide, it's even more newsworthy.

Lobby of the Fairfield by Marriott KathmanduFairfield debuted in 1987 with the opening of the first property in Atlanta. Now known as Fairfield Inn & Suites, its portfolio has grown to over 900 hotels worldwide. To celebrate this milestone, the chain has unveiled a new brand design and is launching a global social-responsibility initiative to expand its relationship with Habitat for Humanity.

On the development front, too, Fairfield is making some major strides. In June 2016, parent company Marriott International Inc. signed an exclusive development agreement with Eastern Crown Hotels Group, one of China's fastest-growing lodging firms, to bring the brand to mainland China. That agreement targets having 140 hotels, each with from 100 to 150 rooms, signed in five years, of which 100 are expected to be open by 2021.

The Hotel Insider recently caught up with Janis Milham, senior vice president and global brand leader, Marriott Classic Select brands, who shared her thoughts on the brand's staying power and its strategy for staying competitive in an increasingly challenging hotel sector.

Thirty years is quite an achievement. How has Fairfield evolved since its inception?

When it got its start, J.W. Marriott derived inspiration for the brand from the family retreat, the Fairfield Farm. The beauty of the simplicity of the farm and the trusted hospitality the Marriott family perfected there have remained core and authentic to the brand throughout its 30-year history. From its legacy at the Fairfield Farm to a rapidly expanding global brand, Fairfield delivers a seamless stay for its guests with design and service inspired by its origins. It is now the second-largest brand in the Marriott International portfolio.

What other brands is Fairfield now competing with, and what differentiates it in a limited-service sector that is upping its offerings every year?

Fairfield by Marriott's unique heritage story is still very important and differentiates the brand within its competitive set. With the introduction of a new guest-room and public-spaces design this year, the brand pays homage to the farm with a design that is timeless, forward-thinking and inviting. Additionally, the brand's formula of trusted service, the Fairfield Guarantee, sets it apart, and it is a philosophy has been an integral part of the brand for the past 30 years, and which continues today.

What is Fairfield's biggest market outside of the U.S.?

Canada is the biggest - we have 21 properties open there, but Asia growth is very strong for the brand. We currently have nine properties in India, and we are experiencing strong growth in China. With the development agreement with Eastern Crown Hotels Group, Fairfield debuted in China this year and is expected to open dozens more in the coming years.

I've heard the brand was tweaked for the India hotel market. What was added to the design and options to make it an enticing option for that nation?

A few changes were made to make it competitive in that market. Fairfield hotels in India typically offer a full-service restaurant that serves three meals a day to make dining convenient for guests. The primary room types available in India are different as well. For example, Fairfield hotels in India offer standard rooms with king beds and standard rooms with two twin beds. And the décor scheme in India was customized specifically for the region and uses natural woods throughout the public space, and colors that tie the inside to the outdoors.

What does the Fairfield pipeline look like, and what can travelers expect from this brand as it continues to evolve?

Global growth continues to remain very important. Fairfield by Marriott debuted in China this year with the opening of the Fairfield by Marriott Nanning Nanhu Park. This year also marks the brand's debut in Brazil, Bali, El Salvador and Nepal, Marriott International's entry into that country. In 2017, Fairfield had the strongest pipeline in the Marriott portfolio. We are expecting to open more than 100 properties, nearly two per week.