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You watch them on TV, you cheer for them from the stands and you might even get to meet them if you splurge on the right seats. But getting to train with them one-on-one? For super fans, that kind of VIP experience with a professional athlete is the stuff of Gatorade-fueled dreams.
Fortunately, hotels around the world are changing the game for fans by giving them access to their favorite pros. Book the right package, and you could find yourself hanging with top-level athletes while learning to play their chosen sport.
“Luxury travelers are looking beyond traditional activities, and want immersive experiences that provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Robert Logan, general manager of One&Only Palmilla in Mexico, which hosts the “Art of Luxury Surfing” program with professional surfers. “These programs encourage guests to discover and satisfy their adventurous side, as well as create great memories — and get some bragging rights.”
What’s more, you don’t even have to be an athlete to participate. While hotels like the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai have offered intense triathlon training camps with six-time Ironman world champion Dave Scott, many gear the offering toward the average, wellness-minded individual.
“The beauty about [these] programs is that it welcomes beginners who have never been out on the waves, as well as those looking to hone their skills,” Logan said. “Our guests have the opportunity to learn and master their skills ….”
Logan said there’s a benefit for the pros as well. “Professional athletes are also seeking meaningful experiences, and providing this level of interaction on a personal level allows them to do so in a unique way,” he said. “And these programs also provide a new platform to help grow their brands.”
This type of offering comes as wellness tourism continues to gain popularity — and drive profits.
“Fitness experiences with professional athletes are an example of the growing ‘Extreme Wellness’ trend,” Global Wellness Institute research director Beth McGroarty told TPG. “In other words, people are increasingly looking for extreme challenges and experiences that redefine their everyday limits and provide new ways to take control of their health and wellness. And working out or participating in a sport with a professional or Olympic athlete is certainly one way to boost limits.”
Interested in testing the trend yourself? Book one of these professional athlete experiences on your next trip.
Hit the Slopes With Shannon Bahrke
Montage Deer Valley will set up private or group skiing sessions with Shannon Bahrke, the American mogul champion who took silver in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and bronze in the 2010 Vancouver Games. She’ll take you through her favorite runs and to her favorite spots while giving you pointers on your form.
How to Book: Guests need to call the concierge ahead of time to check availability and pricing.
Golf With Bobby Clampett
Work on your putt with PGA Tour winner Bobby Clampett at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples. Whether you opt for a private lesson or enroll in a group school, you’re guaranteed to walk away with a better swing, stance and drive.
How to Book: To book a lesson call (239)-236-5536, or email email@example.com.
Surf With Josh Kerr
The next iteration of One&Only Palmilla’s recurring TropicSurf “Art of Luxury Surfing” program will return on Nov. 30 with visiting pro Josh Kerr. Whether it’s your first time on a board or you frequently hang 10, Kerr will take you out on the waves for a one-on-one session. Though Kerr’s tenure at One&Only Palmilla ends on Dec. 3, TropicSurf professionals are available year around, with more visiting pros throughout the year.
How to Book: During your stay, request a one-hour lesson starting from $150.
Play Soccer With Andrea Pirlo and Alessandro Del Piero
As part of Baglioni Hotels’ new Assoluto Signature Programme, guests have the opportunity to spend the day with Italy’s legendary soccer stars Andrea Pirlo and Alessandro Del Piero. It’s up to you entirely whether you want to get a few pointers from the World Cup pros, or just hang out.
How to Book: Stay in a Signature Suite at the brand’s Rome or Milan properties, and mention you’re interested in the Assoluto Signature Programme with the soccer stars. Price is available upon request.
Swing a Racket With Cliff Drysdale
Who better to perfect your backhand with than tennis legend and current ESPN commentator Cliff Drysdale? At The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne in Miami, guests can schedule lessons with him upon request.
How to Book: Sessions can be booked by calling (305)-365-4300 and are based on Cliff’s availability. The starting rate is $105, plus service charges, for one hour for hotel guests.
Go for a Jog With Marc Raquil
A competitor in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2003 World Championship gold medalist of the 4×400 meter relay, Marc Raquil offers personalized coaching in Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo’s fitness club, as well as guided outdoor jogs. Not the best runner? Don’t fret. He’ll also will take you on a Nordic walk.
How to Book: Private lessons for one to two people can be booked through the hotel concierge.
Cycle With George Hincapie
You don’t have to go to France to bike with a 17-time Tour de France competitor. George Hincapie owns and operates the boutique property Hotel Domestique in South Carolina and will take guests on rides throughout the year using high-end Scott bikes.
How to Book: Choose from one of the weekends when George is scheduled to be in town in March, August and November of 2019.
Kick It With Michael Chabala
Former Major League Soccer player Michael Chabala knows it takes more than ball-handling skills to make it as a pro. That’s why he developed a soccer-inspired fitness class with the Four Seasons Hotel Houston that whips guests into game-ready shape (no prior soccer experience required).
How to Book: Sign up for one of the many 30- to 45-minute classes available at the hotel, such as TOCA, the most technical.
Tips for Hotel Bookings
Most of these pro athlete encounters take place at luxury hotels, and if you snag one at a property participating in a hotel loyalty program, you’ll definitely want to sign up for said program (if you haven’t already done so). Eyeing a tennis match with Cliff Drysdale at The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne? You’ll want to earn Marriott Rewards points for that stay.
However, booking directly with the chain or property doesn’t always make the most sense. If you have The Platinum Card® from American Express in your wallet, for example, you should check Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, especially since you’ll now earn 5x Membership Rewards points on these purchases and still enjoy your loyalty points and elite credits. Right now, for example, you could get a $250 property credit and a $100 food and beverage credit, in addition to other perks, when booking at least four nights at the aforementioned Ritz-Carlton.
Meanwhile, travelers with various Chase cards (including the Chase Sapphire Reserve) have access to a similar program called the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection. Finally, you could look at booking a stay using your Citi Prestige Card to take advantage of the fourth night free benefit.
And of course, when it comes time to pay, be sure you’re swiping a card that’ll get you a great return at luxury resorts.
Featured photo by Yann Allegre/Unsplash
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