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Guppy Love: Hotels go to great lengths to de-stress guests

December 17, 2006|Kathleen Doheny | Special to The Times

YOUR flight was delayed, the shuttle took forever and the first rental car they offered you smelled like an ashtray. This is supposed to be a vacation, but by the time you arrive at the hotel check-in desk, getting back to work is starting to look good.

If you're lucky, you booked a stay at one of the growing number of hotels with wellness programs that feature amenities to de-stress and indulge guests.

The goal of such programs is simple: "We want guests to feel better when they leave than they did when they arrived," says Sue Brush, senior vice president of Westin Hotels and Resorts in White Plains, N.Y., one of several chains driving the trend.

Westin launched its Travelers' Renewal program in mid-November at 10 hotels, in Boston, San Francisco, New York, Maui and Chicago, among others.

A renewal station in the lobby is stocked with free fruit, hand purifiers and water.

In guest rooms, a $20 renewal kit includes such products as eye pads, tea, mints, an energizing bar and antibacterial towels.

The renewal menu, available from room service, includes energizing drinks such as green tea and insomnia remedies such as a banana smoothie. Heating pads, ice packs and humidifiers are available, as are over-the-counter medicines for colds and other minor ailments.

Omni Hotels offers guests a "sensation bar" at many of its properties, says Caryn Kboudi, a spokeswoman for the Irving, Texas-based company. The amenities are packaged in a brown wicker basket placed close to the traditional mini-bar and include an aromatherapy pillow spray, a sleep CD, eucalyptus bath salts, rich chocolate bars and a miniature Zen garden. The products are available individually for purchase from $2.25 to $21.

"Sometimes, it's the small and easy things you can do to dial down the stress," Kboudi says. "We customize the kit. In L.A., there is Visine. In Chicago, Frango mints from [the former] Marshall Fields. In Texas, pecan chewies. In New York, there is Yoo-hoo, the popular drink."

Like other hotel operators embarking on the wellness trend, Omni leaves room for sweets in moderation. "It's not meant to be all healthy," Kboudi says, "but to give people the indulgence they are looking for."

In Chicago, Marriott's Fairfield Inn and Suites has two "wellness suites" that are occupied 99% of the time, says general manager Chris Johnson. The rooms have organic bedding, hypoallergenic pillows, an air purification system, filtered water for bathing, in-room yoga kits and instructional videos. The room costs $30 more than the rack rate (about $250 a night), but that extra is donated to the American Heart Assn., he says.

At the Renaissance ClubSport Hotel & Fitness Resort in Walnut Creek, Calif., guests can request a wellness retreat room, spokeswoman Christina Dort says. Up to 10 rooms can be equipped with aromatherapy candles, yoga mats and relaxing music. There's no extra charge.

At Kimpton Hotels' 42 boutique properties in the U.S. and Canada, guests can watch a 24-hour yoga channel and request a free yoga basket, with a mat, block and strap. Now, the chain is rolling out an expanded program in which guests can view on-demand videos on yoga, Pilates, meditation and core strengthening. About half the hotels in the chain also have specialty suites with in-room cardio equipment.

"We encourage people with pets to bring their pets on the road," spokesman Steve Pinetti says. "For those who can't, we offer a complimentary goldfish." The program is called Guppy Love.

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kathleendoheny@earthlink.net

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