Its latest marketing wrinkle is Elite Dreamer luxury bedding, but the appeal of Marriott's ExecuStay runs deeper, suggests Karen Blair, senior vice president of Marriott's upscale extended-stay brand. ExecuStay guests, she says, want the “tangible and intangible things they find in their own homes and offices.” They want the feeling of security they're used to at home.

ExecuStay provides long-term housing — the average stay is 100 days — in about 40 markets. Its clientele includes business travelers in town for a project; people, including families, who are relocating; and those who need housing for insurance reasons.

“Close to 40 percent of our business are people staying for long-term projects,” Blair says, “and about 64 percent of those are men, though we're seeing more females every year.” The primary age groups are Gen Xers 25 to 44 and business people 35 to 44. About a third of the business involves relocation.

One growth area, she suggests, is victims of natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina; here, ExecuStay's largest customer is State Farm Insurance. If fire destroys a family home, the family calls its insurance adjuster, the adjuster calls ExecuStay, ExecuStay arranges moving the family to a hotel for three to seven days and then into an ExecuStay apartment or rental home. It tailors its accommodations to family needs.

“We can completely rearrange the furniture and paint the walls,” Blair says. “You can't do that in a normal hotel room, where you're changing out people every two to seven days

“You may want to be near your school district or your neighborhood,” she says. “We put a lot of people into rental homes, and the average length of stay is closer to 140 days. A whole group of folks are affected by insurance, and this year, with Hurricane Katrina, it really crossed the line a lot.”

One banking company was about to close on the purchase of a New Orleans bank when Katrina scotched the deal, forcing employees into ExecuStay housing.

Is insurance housing a growth business? “It is, and it's a sad business. You're really talking to people who have been through a lot of trauma.”

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