At least six top executives with Marriott International, including the CFO, Chief Customer Officer and President and CEO Tony Capuano, gathered on a field under a tent in Fort Myers Wednesday afternoon — many of them straight off a flight from Seattle.
The executives were there for a rare celebration: The hotel giant, with 1.4 million rooms in 8,700 properties across 139 countries, chose Fort Myers to debut its new affordable midscale extended-stay brand, StudioRes. The celebration was a groundbreaking that, in addition to dozen or so Marriott officials at various levels, included the hotel developer/builder, other partners and Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau Executive Director Tamara Pigott.
Pigott, speaking at the event, noted Lee County and Southwest Florida are not totally recovered from Hurricane Ian, which smashed into the region Sept. 28, 2022. That was 476 days ago, Pigott quipped, adding total available hotel rooms in the county, while improving, are 73% of what they were pre-Ian.
“I’ve been telling people — don’t sleep on Fort Myers,” Pigott said. “I knew we would come back, and here we are. To see new hotel rooms in our community, it really means a lot. And to be first for a brand like this is very touching.”
The StudioRes brand was conceived with a blue-collar client base in mind, people staying at least 20 nights, from traveling nurses to construction workers. Multiple Marriott executives, in press releases, the Fort Myers event and in interviews after it, say this is an untapped market for Marriott. The company operates 31 other brands, from the Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis and Edition on the uber-luxury end to Sheraton, SpringHill Suites and Courtyard in the mid-market. While it has a few brands in the extended stay sector, like Residence Inn and Marriott Executive Apartments, it didn’t have any lower-cost options, in the $80 or $100 a night range. Bethesda, Maryland-based Marriott posted $23.54 billion in revenue in the past 12 months, up 22% over 2022.
Capuano was one of several speakers at the short event, which culminated with a ceremonial shovel photo and tossing of dirt. The StudioRes is being built next to the Three Oaks Marketplace, just off the Alico Road exit of Interstate 75. The address is 9251 Hilsman Lane. An affiliate of Raleigh, North Carolina-based Concord Hospitality, a longtime Marriott hotel development partner, bought the property in November for $1.7 million, Lee County property records show.
The site, also next to a Home Depot and about a mile in front of several rows of industrial buildings, was home to a tent and about 75 chairs Wednesday. That’s where Capuano kicked things off. “We get to go to a lot of these things, but it’s not very often that we get to launch a new brand like this,” Capuano said. “We think there’s tremendous opportunity in this space. This is a category killer for us.”
At 124 rooms and 54,000 square feet, Marriott officials say the StudioRes prototype is “expected to be Marriott’s most affordable cost-per-key product to develop and build.” Guests seeking an extended-stay option will have the comfort of fully furnished studio rooms, complete with kitchen and queen beds. Public spaces, the company adds, will offer amenities such as daily coffee service, a fitness center, laundry room, vending area, communal table and covered patio.
Marriott Chief Development Officer — Midscale Brands Eric Jacobs, speaking after the event, called the StudioRes model “simple and frictionless” for both guests and hotel developers. The developers side is a key component for Marriott with StudioRes, given the company partners with developers and builders on all its properties.
A StudioRes prospectus for investors states the hotels, on 16-acre sites, will be “perfect for secondary and suburban markets with a concentration of class B multifamily” properties. It also has an efficient staffing model, “with no breakfast, weekly housekeeping and 24/7 front desk availability,” the prospectus states.
“StudioRes is for customers who want smart functional design at an affordable price,” the prospectus states, “and for hotel owners seeking an efficient cost to build and low-cost operating model reflective of the current economic environment.”
Jacobs says while the idea for StudioRes has some COVID-19 elements — people working remotely, people fleeing big urban centers — the concept didn’t really take shape until the fourth quarter of 2022. That’s when Capuano, says Jacobs, “challenged us to come up with” a brand to capitalize on low-cost, extended stay trends.
Fort Myers was selected as the first spot for StudioRes, says Jacobs, for the many reasons companies choose Florida: fast-growth, snowbirds, market-size diversity. Jacobs says Marriott has secured 200 commitments to build StudioRes properties since the brand was announced last June, and the prospectus says 1,800 target markets have been identified in the U.S. and Canada.
Concord Hospitality has signed on to build 54 StudioRes properties, including the Fort Myers location and nine others in Florida. Jacobs says he expects the Florida StudioRes figure to climb to 25 locations quickly.
Capuano echoes projections of quick acceptance of the brand. “We think this will be one of our most rapid rollouts in our history,” he said.
Mark Gordon is the managing editor of the Business Observer. He has worked for the Business Observer since 2005. He previously worked for newspapers and magazines in upstate New York, suburban Philadelphia and Jacksonville.