BEVERLY HILLS, CA- Marriott International is giving its Fairfield Inn brand a boost, repositioning the chain in the upper end of the economy segment. The announcement came during the UCLA Investment Conference held here last month. The upgrade will be supported by the introduction of a new prototype that will reflect a combination of guestrooms and suites at existing and future locations, with additional enhancements to both the interior and exterior of the product. ?Our concept had been slowly upgrading. In order for us to be market appropriate, for example in urban markets, we decided to pursue this upgrade,? said Joe Lavin, senior vp/franchising for Marriott International. The strategy, said Lavin, is to connect Fairfield?s existing portfolio with its new future, more upscale positioning. While the majority of newdevelopments are expected to use the new inn and suites concept, existing properties are also anticipated to convert to the specifications, said Lavin. However, he stressed that the new design will not be mandatory for either new development projects or existing buildings. The new prototype of Fairfield Inn & Suites is expected to be popular in urban locations, said Lavin. ?What we?ve done is created a tiered structure where in primary markets, developers can do more units and get more rate return,? Lavin said. The new design will offer unique suites, larger guestrooms, an expanded lobby, a larger porte cochere and an exercise room. The exterior will be marked by a more symmetrical look with double windows and a darker roof. Inside, enhanced amenities will be featured such as coffeemaker, ergonomic desk chair, hair dryer and second telephone will be available at the inn and suites product. As part of the strategy designed by Marriott International, the Fairfield Inn & Suites product will help boost the average rate of the chain upwards, as it is positioned higher in the marketplace. The prototype will cost approximately $3,000 more per unit to build and on average will be larger in room count, said Lavin. However, each of the inn and suites properties will generate a higher average daily rate, $70 plus, rather than about $60. Approximately 15% to 40% of a typical Fairfield Inn & Suites will be comprised of suites versus guestrooms. Within the next five years, Lavin said he sees the systemwide average rate for Fairfield Inn increasing $6 or $7 as a result of this new product and positioning, ?which really is just an evolving market strategy. ?We are delivering what our consumer wants and our consumers have changed slightly, they are more savvy,? he said. Lavin said he expects a ?pure? new prototype to be open by the end of the year and that ultimately the system will become comprised of inns and suites. Marriott said that its consumer research showed that ?while nearly two-thirds of Fairfield Inn?s customers are mid-tier travelers, the current product does not completely leverage the full breadth of market opportunity for the brand.?