Starwood Hotels and Resorts’ CEO, Frits van Paasschen, pictured at IHIF in Berlin this year

Starwood Hotels and Resorts’ CEO, Frits van Paasschen is set to participate in the company’s fifth annual ‘Road to Awareness’ bike ride challenge, one that will cover 570 kilometers in the south of France.

Launched in 2008, the Road to Awareness campaign has raised nearly USD$1.6 million for UNICEF and includes fundraising initiatives by Starwood hotel associates across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

The Starwood team will follow a training regimen developed by Sheraton Fitness partner, Mark Verstegen, founder of Athlete’s Performance and Core Performance, a world-renowned leader in professional athletic training, nutrition and physical therapy, whose methodology drives the Sheraton Fitness Programmed by Core Performance offering available at Sheraton properties globally.

The cyclists will start the rigorous four-day bike ride in Chamonix on August 17th and will travel just under 570 kilometres to Monte Carlo, including some of the most challenging, high-altitude climbs from the Tour de France.

“As Starwood’s largest brand, Sheraton is proud to support the Starwood cycling team as they prepare to undertake one of the most challenging bike rides in the history of this campaign,” said Sheraton Hotels and Resorts’ Global Brand Leader, Hoyt Harper.

“Sheraton Fitness partner, Mark Verstegen, will leverage his years of experience training Olympic athletes, as well as NFL and NBA players, to prepare the Starwood team for this grueling ride, which will raise funds for a worthy cause.”
Verstegen visited members of the cycling team, including senior executives and hotel associates from across Starwood’s Europe, Africa and Middle East region, last month to assess their progress and conduct an in-person extensive training session.

Moving forward, team members will follow a weekly training regimen developed by Verstegen to support their race preparation. With under a month to go before the ride, team members are riding 300 kilometres per week and will augment their training with effective fueling strategies, active recovery techniques, and efficient and effective targeted training plans to prepare for the ride, which includes several steep climbs at high elevations.

This year’s Road to Awareness campaign will raise money for the UNICEF Early Childhood Care and Education program in Ethiopia, which aims to provide preschool education to the most disadvantaged children in rural communities.

Funds raised by Starwood will contribute to the construction of 10 preschools, provide preschool education for up to 50,000 children aged six and enable UNICEF to train 10,000 young instructors to aid their learning.
“We believe that every child has the right to go to school. That is why, together with UNICEF, we have chosen to focus on providing children in need with access to education. We are convinced that for these children education is the door that opens opportunities and will enable them to become fully independent members of society,” said Starwood Hotels and Resorts’ President for Europe, Africa and Middle East, Roeland Vos.

“I am proud of our enthusiastic hotel teams, cyclists and supportive partners that all rally behind the idea of making a difference to the lives of children in Ethiopia.”

In 2011, Starwood raised over USD$600,000 through the Road to Awareness campaign to help support UNICEF projects in Romania and Pakistan, directly benefiting approximately 150 schools in these two countries.

“UNICEF is incredibly proud of our long and successful partnership with Starwood Hotels and Resorts. Together, we are achieving phenomenal results for children,” said UNICEF UK Director and Chief Executive David Bull.

“For more than 16 years, our partnership has served as a strong and unique example of our shared values and commitment to creating a world fit for children.”
In addition to the Road to Awareness associate fundraising campaign, Starwood continues its on-going guest fundraising efforts for UNICEF through the Check Out for Children program, which launched in 1995. It is a partnership between Starwood Hotels and  Resorts and UNICEF whereby guests at participating Starwood hotels agree to the addition of US$1 (or local currency equivalent) to their bills when they check out. Last year, the Check Out for Children program celebrated a remarkable milestone with US$25 million raised through guest donations for children since the launch of the program.

To learn more about the Road to Awareness and make a donation, visit

James Wilkinson

Editor-In-Chief, Hotel Management