OVER THE PAST three months, Asian American hoteliers have opened more than 15 Fairfield Inn & Suites hotels, signifying the brand’s newly cultivated growth throughout the U.S.
Although the hotelier community has been investing in Fairfield Inns for years, Eric Jacobs, chief development officer of select-service and extended-stay brands at Marriott International, said the 30-year-old brand is experiencing a new shine thanks to a next-gen prototype Marriott rolled out five years ago.
Jacobs said the spate of openings over the past few months is the result of his team’s effort to create a brand that attracts investors, owners and consumers. It is also the result of Marriott’s decision to better promote the brand.
For the first 20 years of its life, Fairfield Inn was the lesser-hyped brand in Marriott’s portfolio. Jacobs said the company feared promoting the midscale hotel would diminish its image as a full-service, upscale and upper upscale hotel company. At the time, the company did not want to be defined by Fairfield Inn.
“We are behind in distribution,” Jacobs said, during an interview with Asian Hospitality on Jan. 23 at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit in Los Angeles.
Hilton was opening Hampton Inns like crazy and InterContinental Hotels Group was feverishly delivering Holiday Inn Express hotels while Fairfield Inn kept a low profile. “We were hopping along, doing 15, 20, 25 deals a year, but our competitors were doing 75 to 100 a year,” Jacobs said.
“For a long time, we underplayed the product too far for a Marriott. There were a lot of days I was selling Fairfield and people said Hampton Inn is just a better mousetrap.”
Owners, investors and consumers were asking for a better product, Jacobs said, admitting Marriott had allowed the brand to fall into the economy level in some markets. “I said let’s build a better product; we have to push it up so it resonates with the Marriott customer.”
To grow the brand, Marriott decided in 2009 to revamp its design. “At first, some said it had to be cost neutral to development, but I said, ‘No, it doesn’t. You can’t cheapen the product then want premium pricing. We have to offer a premium product.’”
“After 2009, we came out with new prototype that was more efficient and modern. It resonated with investment community.”
Today, both Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express each have 2,000 hotels open. Fairfield Inn has 850.
But, Jacobs said, the brand is catching up. Hence, the brisk pace of openings and new deals. Today, there are more than 300 Fairfield Inn & Suites in various stages of development in the U.S. with 10 to 12 more deals getting approved each month. “It’s a great turn-around story,” Jacobs said.
According to a Feb. 6 report by Lodging Econometrics, Marriott has the most hotels overall in the pipeline – 140,000 – with Fairfield Inn accounting for 303.
The report says Hilton’s Home2 Suites has 355 under development and Hampton Inn & Suites has 314. InterContinental Hotels Group’s Holiday Inn Express totals 444 projects.
Asian American hoteliers by far are the most prolific franchisees and developers of Fairfield Inn. “The vast majority of Asian American hoteliers play in the upper midscale space, and there are a lot places you can build a Fairfield rather than a Residence Inn or a Courtyard,” Jacobs said. “Some of it is because of the cost entry and some of it is that Asian Americans are building in smaller markets.
“We have a big growth opportunity in the upper midscale space purely on a distribution play,” Jacobs said.
Here are some of the Fairfield Inn hotels that Asian Americans have opened in secondary and tertiary markets in the past several months:
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Wichita Falls Northwest in Wichita Falls, Texas, 89 rooms, Nov. 17. Owner is Ram Hotels of Amarillo, Texas. Mina Bhakta is CEO of Ram Hotels. Mitesh Desai is general manager.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Fort Smith in Fort Smith, Arkansas, 94 rooms, Dec. 19. It is owned and managed by G&G Hospitality LLC of Little Rock, Arkansas. Ganpatbhai Patel is founder.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Boston Walpole in Walpole, Massachusetts, 108 rooms, Dec. 29. S&H Hospitality Realty Inc. of Toronto, Canada, is the owner. Liberty Hotel Group of Liberty, Missouri, founded and headed by Larry Patel, is the manager.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Roanoke Salem in Salem, Virginia, 113 rooms, Dec. 27. Kalyan Hospitality of Glen Allen, Virginia, is owner and manager. Nick Patel is president of Kalyan Hospitality.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Eugene East/Springfield in Eugene, Oregon, 81 rooms, Dec. 29. Alko Hotels of Eugene is owner and manager. Alpesh Patel is president and CEO.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Atlanta Peachtree City in Peachtree City, Georgia, 81 rooms, Dec. 27. Kasandas Properties Peachtree City LLC in Marietta, Georgia, owns the hotel. Shaylesh Patel is president.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Rockingham in Rockingham, North Carolina, 64 rooms, Jan. 2. Owner and operator is Western Hospitality Group Inc., of which Sam Patel is president.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Austin Buda in Buda, Texas, 92 rooms, Jan. 9. It is owned by Buda House L.P., a subsidiary of Seva Hospitality Inc. of Dallas, Texas, which manages the hotel. Prayes Majmudar is president of Seva Hospitality.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Albuquerque North in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 89 rooms, in December. It is owned by Dreamcatcher Hotels. Deepesh Kholwadwala is CEO of Dreamcatcher and Sun Capital Hotels, which manages the property.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Hendersonville Flat Rock in Flat Rock, North Carolina, 84 rooms, Jan. 19. Owner and operator is Blue Star Hospitality LLC of Fletcher, North Carolina. Satis Patel is president.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Atlanta Fairburn in Fairburn, Georgia, 87 rooms, Jan. 26. It is owned and managed by Ascent Hospitality of Buford, Georgia. Nash Patel is co-founder and CEO.