by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | June 13, 2018

Cheryl-Anne SturkenNew logo for Courtyard by MarriottThirty five years ago, Marriott International launched Courtyard by Marriott, a pioneering brand designed specifically for business travelers. Over time, Courtyard has grown to over 1,100 hotels globally in more than 50 countries, morphing into the company's largest brand portfolio.

In recent years a number of limited-service brands, including Cambria Hotels and Hyatt Place, have begun vying for a piece of Courtyard's pie. In response, Marriott is now throwing some serious resources behind an effort to make Courtyard properties freshly relevant for today's business travelers looking to experience new places and savor some local flair, even if they have only 48 hours to squeeze it all in. In the process, the hotel company might just have created a whole new hotel segment -- upscale limited service.

skillet meal now served at courtyard by marriott"For the first time, we are shifting away from showcasing what we offer from a product standpoint to convey what we believe as a brand," said Paige Francis, vice president global marketing for Marriott's Classic Select Brands, when I finally caught up with her to learn what business travelers can expect from Courtyard in the coming months. She pointed out that the brand's new advertising campaign, which was launched close to two months ago in four key markets -- Chile, Singapore, Thailand and the U.S. -- has a distinct international flavor, a deliberate strategy because of Courtyard's rapid global expansion. "It is the company's second largest pipeline, with nearly 280 signed hotels, and nearly 50 percent of those hotels are expected to open outside of North America," Francis noted.

Hand-in-hand with the new campaign, Courtyard by Marriott's repositioning will include a new logo, as well as a new food-and-beverage concept, which is sure to have competitors following suit. The Bistro Bar, which rolled out to some 900 Courtyard hotels in March of this year, is a dual-purposed dining post that dishes up breakfast items such as avocado toast and banana-bread French toast in the morning, then closes for a few hours before transforming into a cozy nighttime lobby bar with a menu featuring handcrafted cocktails, like the Black Cherry Old Fashioned, and small plates, such as skillet meatballs. Francis said plans are underway to expand the brand's F&B concept globally, including introducing it in Canada later this year.

The brand also is going to pack some new design punch to give it some serious curb appeal. "For the first time, we are taking renovations outside the hotel to include exterior-facade updates to some of our older-generation hotels," said Francis, who added that new signage, lighting and landscaping were all part of the new plan, which properties will implement over the coming months. There also will be some new interior changes, such as larger fitness centers with more modern equipment.

"We know the way people define success has changed," said Francis. "It's no longer just about a career or single achievement. It's about the experience and the journey of pursuing your passions, both personally and professionally. With this new brand platform, we are targeting the next-generation business traveler and anyone who shares that mindset around how work has evolved today."

Fast fact: According to the SpendSmart Report, released earlier this year by Portland, Maine-based Certify, which tracks business-expense statistics, Courtyard by Marriott was the second most-expensed hotel chain among business travelers, with an average cost of $272.15. Hampton Inn took the top spot as the most expensed, with an average cost of $240.59.