Marriott International just hit the 1,000-hotel mark for the upper-midscale Fairfield by Marriott, and the brand has grown over the last few years by zeroing in on its target guest and investing in distribution, product and service.
SAN DIEGO—Marriott International has been on a path of reinvention for its upper-midscale Fairfield by Marriott brand, and opportunity lies in knowing exactly where the brand sits in the larger hotel ecosystem, said Eric Jacobs, Marriott’s chief development officer for North America lodging.
The 1,000th Fairfield opened in April, and it’s part of the path Jacobs laid out when he began the brand reinvention process in 2012.
“This is a brand geared to that road warrior, that single-night stay,” he said. “If we’re not there in every city, then we’re missing out. It’s about building that hospitality and that relationship, and being where our travelers are going. We needed a much more focused development strategy.”
The brand’s reinvention began in 2012 with getting hotels up to quality and design standards, and focusing on service and hospitality elements that were vital in hotels the size of Fairfields, which typically fall in the 100- to 110-room range.
The key in these stages was appealing with laser focus to the brand’s target guests, Jacobs said.
“The Fairfield customer will be our Courtyard customer three to five years down the road—it’s the younger, entrepreneurial business owner who is on the road a lot, really growing his or her career,” he said. “Fairfield is an entry point—where we begin the relationship. We need these entry points for younger, more price-sensitive customers as they grow their careers, and we want to grow with them. We had a big, open opportunity.”
Jacobs knew that to compete with Fairfield’s closest competitors—Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express—distribution was critical, in addition to service and amenities.
“We had to recognize that many of our larger partners had ‘grown out’ of developing Fairfields,” he said. “We had to farm the next generation to play in this segment.”
Over the last few years, Jacobs said the company has added between 30 and 40 new Fairfield owners annually who traditionally had not done business with Marriott. In addition, the company focused its development strategy for the brand to grow in secondary and smaller markets.
Al Patel, CEO of Baywood Hotels, has developed 10 Fairfield properties in his career, and in April opened the 1,000th, the Fairfield by Marriott Inn & Suites Denver Tech Center North.
Patel has special ties to the Fairfield brand. He built his first one in 2004, near Marriott’s corporate headquarters. It was built to a new prototype at the time, and corporate executives brought guests and prospective developers in to tour the hotel frequently.
“That hotel brought us a lot of credibility within Marriott’s halls,” Patel said. “As a small developer, I could get access to senior management that otherwise I may not have been able to get.”
His latest Fairfield was the first new-build hotel in the neighborhood in about a decade, he said. The 94-key property sits within Denver’s tech-center corridor, near several corporate headquarters, financial services companies, automotive companies and retail.
“Fairfield has always been a great, simple brand,” Patel said. “It gives everything the road warrior needs and nothing they don’t.”
Baywood has more than 100 hotels open, and about 40% of its portfolio is Marriott-branded hotels.
“We go from Fairfield Inn to Residence Inn, and it’s all about fit—coming up with the optimum brand in the particular submarket,” he said.
Fairfield’s growth trajectory
Since the brand’s reinvention, Jacobs said revenue per available room is up, as are guest satisfaction scores.
Now his priority is to grow the hotel count even more, including internationally.
In November, Marriott announced it signed a deal with longtime collaborator Japanese real estate developer Sekisui House to develop 15 Fairfields across Japan by 2021. Many will be built using modular construction, Jacobs said.
In 2017, the brand entered China, and India is another growth region for Fairfield, with 14 hotels open and eight in the signed pipeline. In Latin America and the Caribbean, 13 Fairfields are open, with 16 in the signed pipeline.
As the brand moves into smaller markets, Jacobs said it’s been a top priority to refine the Fairfield prototype so developers have the option to open smaller properties.
“Now that we’re hitting a density in first- and second-tier markets, we have to sharpen our pencil and right-size the prototype for third- and fourth-tier markets,” he said. “We’re finishing up a smaller version that’s not giving up on any experiences.”
What that means is scaling down certain aspects of the prototype, like the porte-cochere and public space, to more proportionally fit a hotel that has between 80 and 90 rooms, instead of 100.
“We know that there’s a need for this,” he said, adding that 35% of the Fairfield pipeline consists of hotels in this smaller size.
“Now I want to get to 2,000,” he said. “We need to continue to lean in.”