Hotels using new year to push out health initiatives

WASHINGTON, DC and BEVERLY HILLS, CA: Hotels are capitalizing on the current health-obsessed marketplace and stepping up their commitment to providing fitness to guests.

WASHINGTON, DC and BEVERLY HILLS, CA: Hotels are capitalizing on the current health-obsessed marketplace and stepping up their commitment to providing fitness to guests.

Hilton Hotels & Resorts has partnered with Bally Total Fitness to provide access to over 5,000 Bally trainers to its members for a fee, in a program that debuts February 1, 2005. The "Personal Performance Program" also offers an in-room mini gym designed by Bally Total Fitness at properties across the country.

On the same day as Hilton's announcement, Marriott announced its own hotel-room exercise initiative, the "Great Health - Fit for You" program, which also provides complimentary in-room fitness options with BodyRev, BodyWedge21, and Michael Sena's Traveling Trainer at North American hotels beginning in late January 2005.

The trend is not entirely new, however, as 18-state chain Omni Hotels announced an in-room fitness option in 2001.

Hilton's initial delve into fitness stemmed from a survey of its 7,000 of its 15 million international Hilton Honors members, according to Jeanne Datz Rice, Hilton director of brand communication. Many of the respondents told Hilton that they either had a personal trainer at home or wanted to try one, and felt that the rigors of traveling made it more difficult to stick to an exercise routine.

"I [personally] want to stay healthy, but when I'm on the road, I have a tendency to deviate from that," Datz Rice said.

Hilton fitted 25 members with wrist monitors to gauge their activity and found that travelers who exercised performed 61% better than non-exercisers on alertness and reaction tests.

The company is working with its AOR Cohn & Wolfe to push the message out to business publications and other outlets.

"Cohn & Wolfe is my partner in this exercise," Datz Rice said. "I think of it as an extension of our communications department."

Datz Rice said that as a frequent traveler, she has noticed the obesity of business travelers first hand.

"Obesity is a contributing factor [to hotels addressing this]," Datz Rice said, pointing to the glut of articles about the pandemic. "The Wall Street Journal just had a [piece] on parents purchasing personal trainers for children."

Regarding competitors, Datz Rice points to Hilton making treadmills available to guests for more than a year and a half and called other hotels' initiatives "me-too."

While John Wolf, director of media relations at Marriott, did not comment on Datz Rice's assertion, he named, as a differentiation, Marriott's Renaissance Club Sport in the Bay Area, which is a 175-room hotel perched above a Leisure Sports club. Renaissance guests can work out in the 95,000-square-foot club for free.

Marriott has also rolled out its program over multiple stages, including a slew of dining options based on healthy choices.

"When you go out on the road, [staying healthy] may not be the easiest thing to do," Wolf said. "We're trying to make it easier to keep to the routine."

Marriott is also pushing the message through events, briefings, pitches and press releases. It will have a media event on January 20 and has sent out baby t-shirts with the words ?Nothing Fits? on them to members of the media. The hotel will showcase both the food and the exercise equipment.

It is also holding an internal fitness day at its headquarters to excite Marriott staff about the initiatives.

?That helps with our grassroots PR,? said Laurie Goldstein, Marriott PR manager. ?If everyone knows what?s going on and how use the various fitness options, they can talk to their customers.?

Additionally it has invited the media to open houses to see the fitness offerings. Marriott works with New York-based Lauren Davidson PR.

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