Going local with staff-run wellness activities

The W Minneapolis' Tour de Fuel program is a way to help guests see a side of the city they wouldn’t see from walking or driving around.
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Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

So much of luxury travel today revolves around wellness and authentic experiences. But some innovative hotel executives are proving that delivering both doesn't always have to be complicated or expensive.

It can also be a lot of fun, both for the guests and hotel staff.

In Minneapolis, David Cronin, cycling enthusiast and general manager of Starwood Hotels & Resorts sister properties W Minneapolis the Foshay and Le Meridien Chambers Minneapolis, has turned his love of cycling into a popular program that offers guests free bike access and organized rides led by Cronin and other hotel executives to nearby lakes and waterfalls.

Cronin said the program was a great way to connect with guests. "It's a great way for people to see a piece of Minnesota that's very close but you're not going to see if you don't get out," he said.

"For me, a welcome note with a fruit basket is good, but that's not going to make the experience any more authentic."

Cronin said the bike tours grew from a program he started when he moved to cycling-friendly Minneapolis last year to run the two hotels, which are near an extensive downtown greenway.  It started by partnering with a local bike shop to give guests a free bike checkout program and grew to include the guided tours, which are offered under the W's Tour de Fuel or the Meridien's Tour de Minneapolis packages.

"I got here and of course my  bikes moved with me," he said. "I looked at this infrastructure, the greenway, and I thought: this would it be amazing for our customers."

The hotels, which are located about three blocks apart, now have a total of 10 bikes between them that can be used on the guided tours or checked out for free use.

Unlike a group fitness class, Cronin says the packages, which includes a $60 breakfast credit, is not really about making extra money for the hotel but about sharing his passion with guests and helping them see a side of the city they wouldn't see from walking or driving around.

"The customers love it," he said." He recalled a recent guest, a local on staycation: "She said, 'David, this is brilliant; I know the city like the back of my hand, but I have never seen the Greenway from this perspective.' "

In Miami, Tanja Morariu, an avid runner and director of brand development at the Palms Hotel & Spa, started a running club to takes guests along the Miami Beach boardwalk and some of her other favorite scenic running spots.

Morariu said she decided to launch the club for guests a few months ago. The hotel is all about wellness, she said, but "not everyone is in to yoga."

"Wellness is so broad," Morariu said. "And running has become a very popular sport in Miami. I thought, why not run with our guests?"

She added, "It's fun just getting out, showing them, talking to them about Miami."

The runs are free and are led by Morariu and other five other "running ambassadors" from the hotel staff, including workers from the accounting and reservations department, the spa, even the pastry chef. Staff adjust the pace on each outing to suit the participants.

"We've only been doing it a couple of months," she said. "I wouldn't say it's a massive turnout yet ... but I think people are embracing it as something that adds a little something extra to their stay."

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