How TownePlace Suites by Marriott Blossomed
PHOTO: This rendering shows the Gen 4.0 lobby in TownePlace Suites by Marriott. (Courtesy of TownePlace Suites by Marriott)
Marriott International’s lifestyle brands have been making waves lately, but—interestingly enough—Marriott’s all-suite, extended-stay brand TownePlace Suites by Marriott may be making the biggest splash of them all.
TownePlace Suites is currently one of Marriott’s fastest growing brands, a product of a revamped interest from guests and investors. In 2011, 11 hotels opened for TownePlace Suites. This year, the brand will be opening a new hotel every six days on average. Three years ago, the brand included 175 hotels. The brand will feature 300 hotels by the end of this year and 500 hotels by 2020.
On top of that, TownePlace Suites posted the highest increases in revenue per available room (RevPAR) and RevPAR Index (RevPAR measured against its main competitors) of all Marriott brands in 2014.
But what has led this sudden surge for a brand that has been around since 1997?
It doesn’t hurt that the economy has improved, said Loren Nalewanski, vice president of global brand management for TownePlace Suites and SpringHill Suites by Marriott. It also doesn’t hurt that TownePlace Suites’ extended-stay, mid-priced model can shift fluidly with the ebbs and flows of the economy. When times are tough, guests tend to forego the ultra-luxurious for the moderately priced suites. When the economy improves, TownePlace Suites can increase its rates accordingly while still offering a valued suite product.
But it’s about more than the brand’s model. This is a coming-of-age story about a brand listening closer to what its owners and guests want.
“The brand today is now 18 years old and we liken that to a human being,” Nalewanski said. “We’re finally an adult and so at 18 years we’re able to go out and do our own thing and be our own person.”
Perhaps the biggest changes for TownePlace Suites are its design and geographic direction. The brand rolled out a new design prototype in January—dubbed Gen 4.0—and it’s finally in a position to expand into urban areas.
While TownePlace Suites’ previous design prototype, Gen 3.5, was the start of something big for the brand, Nalewanski said Gen 4.0 is “the icing on the cake.” The design, which is the result of extensive research into next-generation travelers such as Gen X and millennials, includes a larger lobby, a more linear exterior look, a large gym, outdoor spaces with fire pits and grilling areas, and a new breakfast that focuses on the local area and allows guests to build their own breakfast sandwich with such ingredients as pepper-fried eggs.
Of course, TownePlace Suites—and Marriott in general—continues to be technology-focused to cater to the times, with free Wi-Fi for members who book directly through Marriott channels. That’s in addition to the standard features of its suites, including a separate living and sleeping area and a fully equipped kitchen.
TownePlace Suites also recently entered a partnership with The Container Store to feature the company’s “elfa”—or tailor-made, customizable—closets. The partnership garnered TownePlace Suites a Gold Adrian Award for “PR Campaign: Partnership with a Major Brand.” Nalewanski said 100 TownePlace Suites properties will have elfa closets by the end of this year.
“We’ve incorporated extensive consumer research with next-gen customers to see where they go, what they use in the room, what they don’t use in the room and we’ve enhanced what really counts to them,” said Nalewanski, who added that next-gen business travelers are “upbeat realists” who want to “make the best” out of their trips for work.
“The entire industry is locked on the future purchase potential of this segment, of these next-generation travelers,” Nalewanski added. “An amazing opportunity lies ahead for all of us.”
At the same time, TownePlace Suites is making sure to include Baby Boomers and continue to be family-friendly and pet-friendly to accommodate a range of travelers.
“It’s important not to forget the guests that are already in the building while we attract the new,” Nalewanski said.
TownePlace Suites’ design has changed dramatically since the brand’s inception. Gen 1.0 was located in industrial parks and corporate facilities and was “laid out more like a self-service apartment community,” Nalewanski said. The main building said “Office” instead of “Lobby,” similar to the typical leasing office.
But in the last 30 months, 85 percent of Gen 1.0 buildings have been completely renovated with new décor.
TownePlace Suites has also taken on a new direction, both literally and metaphorically.
“We really treated (Gen 1.0) hotels as if someone had just rented an apartment,” Nalewanski said. “As the brand has matured, there’s more opportunity for us to be in more suburban locations, in addition to urban locations.”
Recent openings in Denver, San Antonio and Boston, expansion in Canada and plans for hotels in Manhattan, San Diego and Dallas are examples of the direction TownePlace Suites is going. Nalewanski said the fact that TownePlace Suites has a smaller suite and smaller footprint than sister brand Residence Inn has helped it integrate into urban environments.
“We’ve been very, very successful in these urban markets that we’ve entered into,” he said.
So, a lot has changed and continues to change for TownePlace Suites. But one thing that won’t change is TownePlace Suites’ level of customer service, Nalewanski said. The brand was ranked the No. 1 extended-stay brand in the 2013 J.D. Power North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study. It was also ranked No. 1 for mid-price extended stays in Business Travel News' Hotel Chain Survey for three straight years (2011, 2012, 2013).
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