Marriott International unveiled the prototype of its new Courtyard by Marriott hotels in Europe, with the official opening of the 150-room Paris Courtyard by Marriott Colombes. It is the first of approximately 50 Courtyard hotels that Marriott plans to open in Europe over the next five years, more than twice the number currently in operation there.

"We continue to see enormous potential for our Courtyard brand in Europe," said Jean-Marc Grosfort, Marriott's regional vice president-development, explaining that the business travel climate today in Europe is similar to what Marriott experienced in the United States in the mid-1980s when the company first introduced its Courtyard brand.

"The European business traveler today is looking for quality, innovation, functionality, service and style at a fair price. From opening day in 1983, Courtyard was an instant success with travelers and, today, the brand has grown to be our largest and the world's 13th largest lodging chain with more than 700 hotels in 24 countries," he said.

As configured at the Paris Courtyard by Marriott Colombes, the new European Courtyard hotel will have about 150 rooms. Each will boast a contemporary signature open lobby which couples an informal ambience with comfortable seating, a lobby lounge, a colorful three-meal restaurant called Oleo Pazzo Mediterranean Bistro, and a 24-hour mini market/pantry. Meeting space will average 262 square meters in flexible configurations.

Speaking about the prototype, Donald Gibson, Marriott's international vice president for Courtyard, said, "Courtyard is a highly specialized hotel that serves travelers who want consistent and dependable accommodations with amenities that help them achieve the purpose of their trip. We have found that traveler expectations for Courtyard vary geographically and we have gone to great lengths to design a hotel product especially for the upper moderate European travel market.

"The prototype design is the result of in-depth consumer research of European guest needs and preferences, a competition involving three prominent European design firms," he said.

"We are confident that this newly designed, cheerful and bright Courtyard will be an immediate hit with the traveling public. These new stylish Courtyard hotels offer the right price-value balance while delivering the consistency of product and service for which Courtyard is world-renowned," he added.

Each property will have a fitness room and a business lounge including an Internet library. For maximum convenience, the hotel's mini-market/pantry will be open 24 hours a day for salads and sandwiches, espresso, beer and wine.

True to its heritage, new Courtyard by Marriott properties in Europe will continue to emphasize its guest rooms.

"We view the guest room as the key to success for business travelers," Mr. Gibson said. "Our Courtyard guests want their accommodations to be like home to provide comfort, security and escape while, at the same time, enabling them to stay on top of their work requirements through connectivity."

Guest rooms at the Paris Courtyard by Marriott Colombes measure between 24 square meters and 26 square meters, larger than most guest rooms in other hotels in its lodging tier. They are equipped with high-speed Internet access, a large desk with conveniently placed lighting, ergonomic chair for comfort, cable/satellite television, luxury bedding and coffee maker/tea service.

Current corporate room rates at the Paris Courtyard by Marriott Colombes range from Euro 169 - Euro 194 per night.

Mr. Grosfort said that hotel developers will appreciate Courtyard's design flexibility. "While all the components and amenities will be similar, the way they are arranged within the footprint of the available site will vary as needed, giving us greater latitude as to where we situate these hotels."

He said that Marriott expected to develop these hotels in conjunction with local investors on both a management contract or franchise basis. Specific sites will include stand-alone locations or mixed-use developments in city centers and close-in suburban areas.

Currently, there are 43 Courtyard hotels in Europe, including the United Kingdom & Ireland.