Courtyard turns 25, unveils new lobby

29 Oct, 2008 By: Heather Gunter

The Courtyard by Marriott brand celebrated its 25th anniversary with the grand opening of its first new-build property to boast the redefined lobby. The Courtyard Newport News (Va.) Airport hotel, which is owned and operated by LTD Management Co. of Chesapeake, Va., is the first of a dozen that will have the new lobby this year. In 2009, 150-175 new-builds or renovations will showcase the new lobby design in whole or in part. The Newport News property also is the first Courtyard to feature the new exterior look and the refreshed guestroom design. Click here for video.

Dilip Desai, senior managing partner for LTD Management Co., says his company wanted to be the first new-build to roll out the lobby redesign. In fact, the hotel was already under construction when he saw the full-scale model, but he was so impressed with the plans that LTD worked with the architect, Jonathan Nehmer + Associates, to make the changes.

The design of the lobby is centered on a concept Marriott has been working on for several of its brands in the past couple of years—a lobby where guests can get out of their rooms to gather with colleagues or enjoy “public privacy.” This means a lot of different seating configuration
s, all of which are “laptop friendly,” according to Brian King, VP, global brand manager for Courtyard by Marriott. Instead of guests meeting by the elevator to go out to dinner, they can meet at the lobby bar and have a drink first. And that lobby bar becomes a coffee bar in the morning.

One of the centerpieces of the lobby is the GoBoard (similar to Microsoft Surface in Sheraton Hotels & Resorts), a 52-inch LCD touch screen with local information, maps, weather and news headlines. Guests can navigate using the touch screen to find a restaurant and then get directions.

Guests without a laptop have plenty of options. A business library features three computer terminals with a free printer and three separate computer stations for printing boarding passes. There also are books for guests to borrow. High-definition TVs are everywhere you look with several large screens in communal seating areas and smaller TVs with remote controls in booths. King joked that a remote is all it takes to make people happy. The “courtyard” area—in this case a patio—has cushy seating circling fire pits.

A new F&B concept replaces the Courtyard buffet with more made-to-order and ready-made options and puts F&B “in the center,” King says. “Food sends a signal about gathering, sharing, shedding the day,” King says.

This has a similar feel to Hyatt Place, where you can get something hot to eat in the lobby and work on your laptop or watch a little TV before heading to your room for the night—but the Courtyard lobby seems a lot roomier. Starwood's aloft brand also is focusing on its large lobbies with lots of seating configurations, a bar, a pool table, board games and a DJ that spins on certain nights. These options—especially for business travelers—give guests a reason to venture out of their rooms and interact, or at least feel less lonely. And that’s exactly the point. As it says on the Courtyard keycard: “The lock on your room is not meant to keep you in there.”

Marriott is betting on this redesign to increase guest satisfaction and, in terms of revenue, make the lobby do a little more to earn its keep. The company spent $2 million on research that said guests want this, and several other brands also are embracing the lobby. Will guests do likewise? Let us know what you think.

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