Photo by Heather Middleton
By Maria-Jose Subiria
It's out with the old and in with the new -- lobbies, that is.
Courtyard by Marriott, Marriott's largest brand, has installed a "Refreshing Business" lobby in the atrium of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, said Daniel Hernandez, spokesperson for Edelman Public Relations, which represents Courtyard by Marriott.
The lobby zone recently opened and will be operating 24 hours a day, until Nov. 14, said Jerry Clement, spokesperson for the lobby zone presentation at Hartsfield-Jackson.
"Courtyard by Marriott wants air travelers to experience the new design and sample amenities that can be found at 190 Courtyard hotels across the U.S., which has received rave reviews from business and leisure travelers," said Hernandez, in a statement.
"We're bringing the replicas to places they [travelers] congregate, to make them aware of what Courtyard [by Marriott] is doing to enhance the guest experience," Clement added.
Hernandez said other lobby zone locations include Chicago O'Hare International Airport and Denver International Airport.
"Guests who have stayed in Courtyard [by Marriott] hotels with the Refreshing Business lobby have raved about the new concept," said Janis Milham, vice president and global brand manager of Courtyard by Marriott. "Our goal with this lobby zone program is to make travelers who have yet to experience it aware of our new product, and what better way to reach these travelers than at major airports."
Clement added that most of Courtyard by Marriott's customers are business travelers.
"We chose it [Hartsfield-Jackson] because it is one of the busiest hubs," said Clement.
Hernandez said some of the lobbies at the airports feature amenities such as private media booths with high-definition TVs, ample electrical outlets so guests can plug in and charge cell phones and laptops, and flexible seating options, including a communal table.
Another feature provided in airport lobbies, Hernandez said, is the brand's interactive GoBoard(R) technology, which is a 55-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) touchscreen loaded with local news, business and sports headlines from USA Today.
"Guests can also navigate the touchscreen mapping feature to find restaurants, local attractions and print directions," Hernandez explained.
"It acts like a virtual concierge," Clement added.
Clement said the lobby zone will also introduce its guests to the bistro which will be housed in the actual hotel lobbies, by providing them with menus.
"They are going to be experiencing the concept ... they are going to be able to experience everything they would get at the hotel with the exception of food," Clement said in a phone interview.
Jerry Skinner, a passenger at Hartsfield-Jackson, said he approached the lobby zone to satisfy his curiosity.
"I didn't know there was a touchscreen," Skinner said as he completed a survey about his experience. "I like the couches, the tan color."
Clement said there are currently about 195 Refreshing Business lobbies opened at Courtyard by Marriott hotels across the country. The first lobby opened in 2008, at the Courtyard Fairfax Fair Oaks hotel, in Fairfax, Va., said Clement.
By the end of this year, the hotel's franchisees will spend nearly $190 million on new lobbies in nearly 260 U.S. and international Courtyard by Marriott hotel locations, said Hernandez. The brand expects to have new lobbies in 500 U.S. and international hotels by the end of 2011.
"By 2012 they all will be done," added Clement.
Clement said there are roughly 880 Courtyard by Marriott hotels in 35 countries.
Clement explained that Marriott conducted focus groups for its Courtyard by Marriott brand, from 2005 to 2007.
"They wanted a choice, a more contemporary place where they can sit, eat and connect," Clement said.
Clement said the new lobbies are more inviting, and more guests are checking into their rooms, and coming right back to the lobby area to take advantage of the environment.
Clement said there are two Courtyard by Marriott hotels near the Atlanta airport, but the new lobbies have not yet been installed. At Courtyard Atlanta Airport South/Sullivan Road, located at 2050 Sullivan Road, College Park, the new lobby will be installed by January 2011. The Courtyard Atlanta Airport North/Virginia Avenue will have its new lobby in place by December of this year.