Travel Health :

Hotel to Focus on Fitness

Barbara Delollis, @barbdelollis, USA TODAY

Holiday Inn's parent company is turning to a high-profile Midtown New York location to launch its pioneering fitness-themed hotel chain.

InterContinental Hotels Group today will announce that it's signed an agreement with ownership group CWC to create an Even hotel in a newly built tower near Grand Central Station.

It's set to open in late 2014 and will be Even's flagship location.

"New York continues to identify itself as a city that wants to lead with healthier lifestyles," says Kirk Kinsell, president of IHG's Americas division.

New York, for instance, was ranked as one of the top 50 healthiest cities in the USA in an American College of Sports Medicine assessment.

IHG's goal is to cater to what the hotel giant counts as 17 million travelers in the USA who wish it were easier to work out, eat well and generally feel more healthy while on the road in typical midpriced hotels -- which often have small gyms and fewer services than full-service hotels.

Some other hotel chains are emphasizing fitness, but they tend to be higher-end properties.

The luxury Fairmont chain, for instance, recently updated its popular Fairmont Fit program, which lets guests borrow Reebok running shoes, apparel and other fitness gear.

The items are delivered directly to guests rooms so they can use them as they want-- whether in their room, the hotel gym or a nearby park.

The Fairmont hotel in Washington, D.C., receives eight to 10 requests for Fairmont Fit's apparel a day and demand is growing, says Mark Andrew, the hotel's general manager.

Starwood's largest chain -- the full-service Sheraton brand -- recently invested more than $100 million in its Core Fitness offering and partnered with Core Performance to program it, says spokeswoman Nadeen Ayala. The result includes upgraded gyms and workout-in-a-bag, which lets guests use gear in their rooms.

New York makes sense for the flagship Even hotel, says John Hardy, CEO of hospitality development services firm The John Hardy Group, who has worked on new hotel brands.

"You want it to be as high-profile as possible from a media and market point of view," Hardy says. "You want it to be a strong market so it's going to be financially successful, because they want other people to franchise this."

New York, he says, is "like a hotel laboratory" because there's plenty of demand, and visitors appreciate experiencing different things.

IHG's Kinsell says that five years from now, travelers could could see as many as 100 Even hotels in cities such as Washington and San Francisco.

IHG confirms the New York hotel will have 230 guest rooms on 23 floors, and dedicated meeting areas in addition to indoor/outdoor eating and exercise space.

Guest rooms will have a fitness wall or exercise balls. Guests will also be able to take advantage of a laundry service with a quick turnaround on gym clothes.

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