Courtyard by Marriott Nears 1,000 Milestone

Courtyard by Marriott is approaching a significant milestone -- the opening of its 1,000th hotel. That property will be the 120-room Courtyard Walla Walla in Washington state, and to mark the occasion, parent company Marriott International is giving all Marriott Rewards guests checking in at any Courtyard worldwide on March 31, 2015, a gift of 1,000 loyalty points. The chain expects to give away a total of roughly 50 million points on that day.

Courtyard, Marriott's first sister brand, has come a long way since its launch in Atlanta in 1983. Today it's the world's eighth largest hospitality brand, with hotels in 40 countries, and its development pipeline of over 250 properties is the largest in Marriott's portfolio. Perhaps more significantly, 50 percent of Courtyard's pipeline is outside of the United States, as the brand continues its push into China and India. This month Courtyard opened its 12th property in India, the 189-room Courtyard by Marriott Agra, which features 30,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

The chain seems determined to plant Courtyard flags in as many new markets as it can. Last month saw the opening of the first Marriott-endorsed property in Abu Dhabi, the 195-room Courtyard by Marriott World Trade Center, Abu Dhabi (joining its sister hotel, the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal), and the company will open its first Courtyard in Brazil later this year. What has made the brand such a success in these emerging destinations is a determination to adapt to different market needs. Courtyards are in the select-service sector, so in the U.S. they don't have restaurants and full bars, while elsewhere travelers want those amenities. So in Asia, all Courtyards feature a full-service restaurant and extensive banquet facilities, and the property in Abu Dhabi is getting a rooftop bar this summer.

Courtyard's staying power lies largely in this ability to evolve to meet changing guest demands. Several years ago, Marriott International used Courtyard as the canvas to launch its new lobby experience -- a trend that soon swept across the hotel industry as other chains followed suit. The new design included flexible seating options, a communal table for impromptu group meetings, private media booths with high-definition televisions, and an interactive 55-inch LCD touch screen that allowed guests to find restaurants and other local attractions. Other innovations, such as the 24/7 lobby market, complimentary Wi-Fi throughout and even a trendy bar scene, followed.

"By listening to our customers over the past 30 years, we have been able to continually evolve," said Callette Nielsen, vice president and global brand manager for Courtyard. We say, congratulations.