Sarah Lipton & Sean Verney on Westin Hotels & Resorts’ new partnership with FitStar by Fitbit, Westin Times Square, and more

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Photo by Evi Abeler

Photo by Evi Abeler
Photo by Evi Abeler

Not all hotels have a gym, and few of the ones that do in Manhattan can truly call theirs a “fitness center.” In the case of Westin Hotels & Resorts, their gyms are known as “WestinWORKOUT fitness studios” and aim to provide guests with everything needed for their wellness. Last month, Westin announced a partnership with FitStar by Fitbit to bring guests free access to the popular FitStar Yoga app. This commitment continues off-site, as the app also offers off-site access to select work-outs.

To learn more about the partnership between FitStar and Westin, I spoke with two Westin staffers. Sarah Lipton is the Director of Global Brand Management for Westin Hotels & Resorts. Sean Verney is the General Manager at The Westin New York at Time Square. Fitness aside, The Westin New York At Times Square is the only hotel in New York City — and one of only six properties in the country — to receive the Gold Certification by Green Seal, the nation’s premier environmental certification. This is a very impressive accolade for a hotel with 873 rooms, to say the least.

FitStar can be followed on Twitter as @FitStar and via its own website. The Westin New York At Times Square is online at www.westinny.com and on Twitter as @Westin_New_York.

Photo by Evi Abeler
Photo by Evi Abeler

How did this FitStar and Westin partnership happen? Has there ever been a similar partnership for Westin?

Sarah Lipton: We cultivated this partnership with FitStar by Fitbit to answer a growing demand from our guests for flexible fitness options while they’re away from home. Westin is constantly seeking new ways to leverage trends in the health and fitness industries to inspire new programming for guests, and working with FitStar has given Westin guests yet another way to maintain their workout routines on the road.

Another popular wellness-focused partnership we offer is our Gear Lending program in partnership with New Balance, which gives guests access to our world-class fitness centers, the ability to get outside and participate in our runWESTIN program or complete a FitStar video-based workout in their guestroom without needing to pack their workout attire when they travel. New Balance athletic shoes and workout attire is delivered to guests’ rooms for use during their stay.

How does it work in terms of FitStar and Westin? Is it a yoga program that can be done from anywhere within the hotel?

SL: Westin guests have the opportunity to enjoy free premium access to FitStar for 30 days, complete with video workouts that don’t require a lot of space, equipment or time. The FitStar app is accessible on mobile devices and tablets and can be synched with wearables, making it a great option for guests who want to work out in their guestrooms, outside the hotel, or in our WestinWORKOUT fitness studio. So it’s perfect for helping you maintain your fitness routine anytime, anywhere.

Guests can even continue using the app when they return home, showcasing our commitment to being a partner in our guests’ well-being before, during and after their stay. Whether someone is a Westin guest or not, anyone can access our custom Stay Fit With Westin workout on the Freestyle section of the FitStar Personal Trainer app and Stretch Further With Westin workout on the FreeStyle section of FitStar Yoga.

Sarah Lipton
Sarah Lipton

Is there something you wish more people knew about Westin hotels? How do you feel they compare to the other high-end Starwood brands?

SL: Well-being is truly in the brand’s DNA and serves as inspiration for our design aesthetic, program offerings and signature guest experiences. While Westin has been a leader in enabling wellness through hospitality since the debut of the Heavenly Bed 15 years ago, the brand continues to evolve its offerings in lockstep with the growing wellness industry and launch meaningful programming that holistically supports our 6 pillars Well-being: Sleep Well, Eat Well, Move Well, Feel Well, Work Well and Play Well. I am proud to have seen tremendous success with our wellness programs, as guests are increasingly learning about them and incorporating them into their travel itineraries.

Sean, have you ever done yoga before?

Sean Verney: Yes, I have tried yoga and enjoyed it, but I do prefer running and bike riding for workouts. I enjoy using them as a way to get outside and explore my neighborhood, or a destination while traveling.

Aside from the FitStar partnership, what’s your favorite amenity offered at The Westin New York at Times Square?

SV: The WestinWORKOUT fitness studios, which all guests receive complimentary access to, as well as our Gear Lending program in partnership with New Balance®, are some of our guests’ favorite amenities — especially those looking to stay fit on the road.

How has The Westin New York at Times Square changed since you started working there?

SV: We just recently unveiled a $35 million renovation of our guest rooms, public spaces and meeting centers, and repositioning of our food and beverage offerings. One of the things we’re most proud of is our Green Seal Gold certification that we received in 2015 for the expansion of our energy conservation practices. The Westin New York at Times Square is the only hotel in New York City, and one of only six properties in the country, to receive this designation.

Sean Verney
Sean Verney

What hotel features have changed since The Westin New York at Times Square opened in 2002?

SV: As I mentioned, we renovated all of our meeting spaces, guestrooms and lobby. The refresh was in development for three years and added elements of Westin’s new visual identity through custom furniture, local artwork and inviting fabrics. The team, however, is most proud of the improvements we have made in our energy conversation initiative. This work has allowed us to reduce our carbon footprint and work towards the objectives Starwood established to significantly reduce water and energy consumption by 2020. We have also been recognized by NYC Hotel Association for our sustainability initiatives, and are part of the NYC Carbon Challenge run by the Mayor’s Office.

Are there any special events or promotions coming up for your hotel?

SV: The Westin New York at Times Square fully embraces its location in the heart of Times Square and adjacent to Broadway, and we often host fun activations in our lobby in conjunction with different partners and cast members from various Broadway shows. We are currently planning our Fall events, and look forward to having a 15th Anniversary celebration in 2017.

What was your first hotel-related job?

SV: Assistant Food & Beverage Manager at the Sheraton Manhattan.

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Was it always your plan to work in the hospitality world?

SV: I was born into hospitality, as my mother and father are in the restaurant business. It has always been a part of my life and a passion of mine.

When not busy with the hotel, how do you like to spend your free time?

SV: I spend my free time with family.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?

SV: Rao’s provides diners a once-in-a-lifetime experience, serving delicious, authentic Italian food.

Are you planning on attending any concerts in the city this summer?

SV: Yes — this summer, Bon Jovi is performing an intimate concert at BB Kings, right near the Westin New York at Times Square, and I plan on attending.

Finally, Sean, any last words for the kids??

SV: One critical piece of advice to those wanting to enter into the hospitality industry is that you must have the passion to serve — serve your coworkers and serve your guests. I’ve also always told my children to follow their passion. If you are passionate about the hospitality industry, it will never feel like work. It will always be an adventure, and an enjoyable experience.