An Exclusive Look At The View From America’s Tallest Hotel Building

Last year, Marriott International made waves with the announcement that its latest New York City property would be the tallest stand-alone hotel building in Manhattan. But now, about 17 months into construction, it has become clear that the new Nobutaka Ashihara-designed skyscraper will not just be the city’s tallest hotel, but the tallest stand-alone hotel building in the entire United States.

The new property, located at 1717 Broadway and 54th Street, consists of 68 stories extending nearly 753 feet into the midtown Manhattan skyline. It will house the new Courtyard by Marriott-Central Park on floors six through 32 and the new Residence Inn by Marriott-Central Park on floors 36 through 64. Earlier this week, we were able to get a sneak peek at the construction of the new property, including the jaw-dropping, 360-degree view from the top.

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At elevations that high, the city is quite literally at your feet. To the west, you can see straight across the Hudson River to New Jersey. To the south, you have the heart of midtown Manhattan, including a clear view of Times Square, and to the east, you can look down at iconic structures like Carnegie Hall and the Hearst Tower. Northbound, you can see the whole of Central Park spread straight up through the tip of Manhattan. It’s a sight that will take your breath away (if your breath wasn’t already suffering from the high altitude).On the bottom chunk of the building, the Courtyard will contain 378 rooms, each providing the brand’s trademark “refreshing business” environment to help guests stay connected, productive and balanced. Up top, the 261 Residence Inn suites will provide comfort to guests on longer stays, offering full kitchens and home-style comforts. The 34th floor will house a shared fitness center, while common spaces, restaurants and retail space will take up the five-floor “pillar” of the building.

The building owners, Granite Broadway Development, and building contractor, CNY Builders, will celebrate the completion of the skyscraper’s structure this morning with a commemorative topping out ceremony, followed by the hauling of the final bucket of concrete to the top floor. From here, contractors will work on building out the interior of the hotel to Marriott specifications. An opening is slated for the end of 2013.

Romance On The Road: Couples Want More Leisure Travel Time

bora bora A new Courtyard by Marriott survey shows that travelers in relationships crave leisure getaways and feel as if they don’t get to take enough trips with their partner.

The survey revealed that 25 percent of couples never travel for leisure purposes, and on average, 50 percent only travel together once or twice per year. According to the survey of men and women, almost 70 percent say they don’t go away often enough as a couple, and 87 percent enjoy traveling with their spouse or significant other more than anyone else.

The good news, according to the survey, is both men and women agree on what’s important when on vacation together. Top couples’ priorities include visiting local attractions (56 percent), rejuvenating (39 percent), being romantic (37 percent), developing their relationship (35 percent), eating great new foods (33 percent), and relaxing at their hotel (28 percent).

When asked what they wish their partner would surprise them with away from home, both men and women ranked a fancy dinner out as number one. Following a fancy dinner, men would like to be surprised with catching a pro sporting event or an adventure activity, and women would like to be surprised with a couple’s spa treatment or shopping – although both men and women recognize those activities may not be on top of their partner’s activity wish list.

What do you think? Do you get away enough with your partner? If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be?

[Flickr image of Bora Bora via Benoit Mahe]

Marriott Courtyard unveils new lobby concept, rolls out displays in airports across the country

courtyard by marriottCourtyard by Marriott has recently begun rolling out improvements to their popular brand. In July, we told you about improvements to their food service model through a their new “Bistro” concept. Now, the brand is rolling out newly-renovated lobbies and has chosen a fitting place for the concept to make its debut – airports.

[Check out this page, on where to find the Lobby Zone displays.]

Popular amongst business travelers and families alike, Courtyard drew loyal fans for their full, hot breakfast buffets. But as the average traveler evolved, hotel executives realized that the area taken up by the breakfast buffet went unused for a good portion of the day. As part of the redesign, the brand re-invented their food service model, transforming the buffet and lobby areas into “bistros” with a quick casual vibe, and re-invented their lobby to match.

The new lobbies include laptop friendly stations with multiple outlets and a giant touchscreen TV where travelers can look up the weather, news and local attractions to help them with their stay. The more modern decor caters to younger and more tech-savvy travelers as well.
%Gallery-138489%We asked Janis Milham, vice president and global brand manager for Courtyard by Marriott, a few questions about the new renovations:

Does the new lobby concept indicate a new type of traveler to your brand, a modernization of the property, or a bit of both?

The redesign of the lobby and public space environment wasn’t simply modernization for the sake of modernization. It was modernization that was informed by evolving guest needs and their desire for a more flexible space to work and relax, as well as their desire for a variety of food and beverage options in both the morning and evening.

Are there any other advancements to the hotels we can be expecting in the coming months?

We’ve recently unveiled the new and exciting GoBoard® 4.0 [which] now provides guests with immediate access to detailed flight departure and arrival information for all local airports and allows guests to send directions to local area restaurants and attractions from the GoBoard® directly to their smart phones.

How did your team design the new concept – what was the thought process behind the change?

We based our design on extensive customer feedback and enlisted the San Francisco-based design firm, IDEO, to create a totally new lobby experience that makes it easy to work, plug-in, socialize and relax.

When can we expect these new lobbies to be rolled out to all hotels? How many are open now?

We currently have over 800 Courtyard hotels in North America, and more than 50% of them will feature the redesigned lobby by the end of the year. We expect that over 90% of our hotels will have the new lobby and public space design by the end of 2013.

Where can travelers find these lobby concepts to test out?

[T]ravelers at Phoenix Terminal 4, Houston Terminal E, near Gate 19, and Baltimore/Washington Concourse A now have an oasis to recharge their devices and their energy before boarding.These are accessible through December 16.

Have you experienced the new lobby concept for yourself? What do you think? Weigh in with your comments, below.

Hotels to ditch front desks in the next three years

Is the hotel front desk a thing of the past?

I was pretty blown away by this concept, which I ran into on MSNBC yesterday. It seems that the Los Angeles Andaz hotel and the Andaz in New York City have both gotten rid of the front desk. Instead, the hotel is greeting guests with a “host” bearin wine, a great chair and the chance to choose a room by laptop. The move, intended to be high-touch and personal, has played differently in both locations – welcomed in LA and not so much in Manhattan.

Yet, it could signal the next big trend in the hotel industry. The personal welcomes do focus more on the guest, and the thought of waiting in a comfy lobby chair instead of standing in line laden with baggage is pretty attractive. So far, Courtyard by Marriott has moved away from the front desk concept in 201 of its 800 lobbies in the United States, favoring “welcome pedestals” instead. By 2013, it hopes to complete the transition.

Changes are coming at other hotels, too, according to MSNBC:

Several thousand customers who already carried Starwood Preferred Guest cards were texted their room numbers before arriving at the Aloft Lexington in Massachusetts, allowing them to bypass the front desk and head to their floor. Once there, they simply tapped their preferred guest card on the door lock for room access. That pilot program is being expanded to Alofts in Harlem, Brooklyn, Jacksonville, Fla. and Brussels, Belgium.

James Sinclair, principal of OnSite Consulting, which focuses on the hospitality and restaurant industries, expects the front-desk concept to last another 36 months. In addition to appealing to many travelers, the move is expected to cut operating costs and give hotels a bit more breathing room follow a trying economic period.

[photo by prayitno via Flickr]

Courtyard by Marriott helps guests count calories

Courtyard by Marriott is getting into the spirit of dieting. The hotel chain is revamping their menus and offering additional information next to items, including calories and fat count.

The “calorie count menus” will be available later this month at The Bistro – the hotel’s food and beverage outlet. The Bistro, which is located in more than 150 hotels in North America and plans to double by the end of the year, focuses on a grab-and-go dining concept that offers guests a variety of options for breakfast and dinner.

Courtyard by Marriott says the move put the hotel brand “on the forefront of the U.S. healthcare reform bill, which will require all chain restaurants in the U.S. to post calorie counts on their menus.”

As part of the menu additions, The Bistro will also offer healthy options like low-carb, low-fat muffins and salads. For those wanting a little more fat content, there will still be BBQ ribs and beers available.

The new menus at The Bistro are just another way Marriott International is helping guests live a healthier lives. In 2007, Marriott announced it was eliminating trans fats in fried foods and deep frying oils, and in 2006 Marriott went “smoke-free” at all hotels. Guests at Marriott Hotels & Resorts and JW Marriott Hotels can take part in the Fit For You program, and at Renaissance hotels, the Eat.Drink.Balance program offers options for low fat, low cholesterol and carb conscious foods.

We applaud this initiative by Marriott and look forward to seeing more hotels help guests live healthier lifestyles. In the meantime, we’ll look away while you grab a double-fudge brownie before bed.