Wade: Heat ‘set a trend’ by teaming All-Stars

CHICAGO — Love or hate the Miami Heat, Dwyane Wade knows that he and teammates LeBron James and Chris Bosh set a trend the rest of the NBA will follow for years.

Wade We’ve set a trend for the rest of the league. I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but more guys are going to look to team up and do things like that.

— Heat All-Star Dwyane Wade

“Yes, we have,” Wade told ESPNChicago.com Thursday morning during an event for his “Wade’s World” charity. “I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but more guys are going to look to team up and do things like that.”

Wade, who said recently that criticism during the season of the Heat was “unfair” in some respects, still isn’t quite sure why his team faced so much hatred.

“I don’t know. I wish I could pinpoint it,” he said. “Obviously, people don’t like change. And we changed things. We changed the way things were done. People don’t like that. It takes time to get used to it. Whenever you’re the first to do something, it’s not always the best thing. But eventually later on you get to see, it wasn’t that bad. You can look at a guy like Allen Iverson when he first came in the league, tattoos, braids, all these things, it wasn’t cool.

“It was cool on the outside, but in the NBA world it wasn’t cool. Now you see people around the world with tattoos, braids, no matter what profession you’re in, it’s OK. But he was one of the first ones, as an athlete, to do it. And you’ve seen that he got a lot of backlash, but now it’s a cool thing to do. Anybody can get braids now, anybody can get tattoos now, and it’s not as bad. When you’re the first one to do something, it’s always the worst, but eventually it comes around.”

Wade agreed with the notion that the Heat became the “NWO” of the NBA, the wrestling storyline that placed good guy wrestler Hulk Hogan, among others, in a group that played the role of villains for several years in the WCW during the late ’90s.

“In a sense, right?” he said with a laugh. “We’re game-changers in that capacity. We set a trend in the way of how it was done, but we really haven’t did too much different than what was done back in the day. When you think about the great teams, the Bill Russell teams, you think about all these teams that have four Hall of Famers, three Hall of Famers, five Hall of Famers. It’s just now in today’s world, social media, and all these things, it becomes bigger than it was back in the day. But, it was some of the same stuff happening [back then].”

Wade was noncommittal when asked about whether the NBA would have a season this year.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Hopefully.”

Would he consider playing overseas?

“I don’t know,” he said. “We’ll see. Obviously, I want to play in the NBA, and that’s my first option, but if it’s not an option, then I have to open up my options.”

The one thing Wade was certain of was that he would be playing on the U.S. Olympic team next summer in London. When asked whether he would compete for Team USA if the lockout canceled all of this upcoming season, Wade did not hesitate.

“Yes,” he said.

Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com.

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Medical examiner: Flanagan’s death a suicide

Mike Flanagan Found Dead In Maryland
Former Cy Young winner Flanagan found dead

Mike Flanagan Found Dead In Maryland

BALTIMORE — Former Cy Young Award winner Mike Flanagan died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head, the Maryland medical examiner ruled Thursday.

A police investigation revealed that the 59-year-old pitcher was upset about financial issues. He left no note.

Flanagan’s body was found Wednesday afternoon about 250 feet behind his home. An investigation showed he was home alone when he took his life.

Kurkjian: Flanagan one-of-a-kind

A Cy Young winner in 1979, Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan was found dead at 59. ESPN The Magazine’s Tim Kurkjian reminisces about his favorite player. Story


ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney reflects on the life and career of his friend Mike Flanagan, the funniest man in baseball. Blog

Flanagan won the Cy Young Award in 1979 and helped the Baltimore Orioles win the 1983 World Series. After his retirement, he worked for the Orioles as a coach and in the front office before settling into a job as color commentator on the team’s broadcast network.

Flanagan had been scheduled to work this weekend’s series against the New York Yankees.

“He was looking forward to broadcasting the Yankees series coming up. He was doing something he loved,” said Jim Duquette, who teamed with Flanagan from 2005 to 2007 to attempt to rebuild the Orioles.

According to police, Alex Flanagan last spoke to her husband about 1 a.m. ET Wednesday. She told police he sounded upset, and he promised he would talk to her later.

When Alex Flanagan did not hear from her husband, she called a neighbor to check on him. The neighbor went to the home and called 911 after failing to find him.

Police discovered a body on the property but could not immediately determine the identity because the wounds were so severe.

[+] EnlargeMike Flanagan
AP Photo/Gail BurtonA medical examiner ruled the death of former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan, left, a suicide Thursday.

There was a moment of silence at Yankee Stadium on Thursday before New York faced the Oakland Athletics. Flanagan’s picture was posted on the video board.

Flanagan was a crafty left-hander who went 167-143 with a 3.90 ERA in 18 seasons with Baltimore and Toronto.

He was 141-116 with Baltimore and is a member of the team’s Hall of Fame. Flanagan was also the final Oriole to pitch at Memorial Stadium, Baltimore’s home from 1954 to 1991.

During that appearance out of the bullpen, Flanagan struck out Detroit’s Dave Bergman and Travis Fryman, much to the delight of the 50,700 fans that filled the old ballpark one last time.

“He was a wonderful individual and a true Oriole who led by example, played the game with class and brought a lot of happiness to Orioles fans over his career. He will be missed tremendously by so many people,” said Mike Gibbons, executive director of Sports Legends Museum & the Babe Ruth Birthplace.

The Flanagan family issued this statement Thursday: “We thank you for your support and kind words at this difficult time. Thank you for respecting our privacy as we grieve. A private memorial will be held at a later date.”

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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Agent denies Pens’ Crosby has suffered setback

PITTSBURGH — The agent for Penguins star Sidney Crosby is refuting a Canadian television report that says the former MVP has suffered a setback in his recovery from a pair of concussions.

Crosby

Crosby

CTV News reported Monday that Crosby suspended his training after suffering a recurrence of concussion-like symptoms and wouldn’t be ready when the Penguins open training camp next month.

“Sidney hasn’t been shut down by anyone. He has simply adjusted his summer program accordingly to the different needs for the appropriate recovery,” Crosby’s agent Pat Brisson said. “Training camp is in three weeks from now. It is too premature to speculate all kinds of deliberate information at his point. Sidney will address the media at the appropriate time in order to give everyone an update. As far as I know training camp hasn’t started yet.”

Penguins general manager Ray Shero said last week he anticipated Crosby will arrive in Pittsburgh a week before camp begins to be evaluated.

Crosby hasn’t played since suffering two concussions within a week’s time in January.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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Time not ripe for Israeli-Palestinian talks: Fayyad (Reuters)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The time is not right for meaningful Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Wednesday, saying they are only likely to produce a blame game rather than a settlement.

The so-called Quartet of Middle East peace mediators has failed to meet its own goal of bringing the two sides into direct talks, instead scheduling separate meetings with them on October 26 in the hope of eventually bringing about negotiations.

Speaking to a nonprofit group that promotes the cause of Palestinian independence, Fayyad said there is little point in such talks without first establishing “terms of reference” — diplomatic jargon for the rough parameters of a solution.

“My own assessment is that conditions are not ripe, at this juncture, for a meaningful resumption of talks,” Fayyad told a black-tie dinner hosted by the American Task Force on Palestine.

“All it is likely to produce under current conditions is defensiveness on the part of the parties … leading to a positioning game … to try to establish a position where it is the other' party's fault,” he added.

A prisoner exchange on Tuesday, in which an Israeli soldier held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip for more than five years was swapped for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, has raised hopes that peace talks can resume.

The U.S. State Department announced on Tuesday that the Quartet — comprised of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States — would hold separate talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials in Jerusalem on October 26.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office issued a statement on Tuesday blaming the Palestinians for the fact that face-to-face talks between the parties are not planned.

“We express regret that during the meeting set for October 26 there will not be direct talks between the parties because of the objection of the Palestinians. Only direct talks without preconditions will allow a peace process to take place,” the Israeli prime minister's office said in a written statement.

Fayyad told guests at the dinner not to be “misled” by such statements, saying “it's not for lack of talks that this process has not produced.”

“It's precisely because those talks happened so many times before but not on a basis of terms of reference that are really consistent with what is required to bring this conflict to an end in a manner that is remotely related to what international law requires,” he added.

The Palestinian Authority has said it will not return to direct peace talks until Israel ceases building Jewish settlements on West Bank land occupied by Israel during a 1967 war and that the Palestinians want for a state.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; editing by Anthony Boadle)

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10 mountains for every kind of climber

(CNNGo) — Climbing pioneer George Mallory scaled some of the world’s biggest peaks “because they’re there.” But with so many mountains and so little time, how does a climber know where to start?

We’ve taken some of the guesswork out of picking the perfect peak, so whether you’re the next Sir Edmund Hillary or more of a mountain man wannabe, you can focus on reaching the summit.

1. Hardcore junkies: K2, Pakistan/China

“So, who wants to go first?”

Everest may be taller, but real mountaineers know no peak on the planet beats K2 for sheer intensity. If you need an introduction, odds are you should stick to admiring it from afar.

This 8,611-meter Himalayan giant, dubbed the “Savage Mountain,” is considered the world’s toughest, with routes harder than Everest’s and weather that’s even more brutally cold and unpredictable.

For every four climbers who reach the summit, one dies trying, and female climbers beware: the peak is said to be “cursed,” as three of the five women to conquer the summit died on the descent.

If that doesn’t scare you off, you’re either good enough to belong, or crazy enough to try anyway. Succeed, and you’ll have earned the right to tell aspiring climbers that Everest is for wimps. If you’re a cheater, head for Mount K2 instead, a decidedly friendlier Canadian peak with a name that will fool your less savvy friends.

Where to start: No question here — any serious K2 summit bid will be with an expedition, who’ll take care of the details. Be wary if they sign you up for a winter ascent, as it’s never been successfully climbed when the weather turns even more brutal than usual. Unless you’re just that hardcore, that is.

Adventure Peaks; +44 (0)1539 433794; info@adventurepeaks.com; http://www.adventurepeaks.com/expeditions/k2.htm

Amical Alpine; info@amical.de; http://www.amical.de/expeditionstagebuecher

2. Couch potatoes: Bromo, Indonesia

You could even climb it twice if you wanted.

Who said climbing a mountain has to involve breaking a sweat? If the mere thought of hiking sets your heart pounding, head to Indonesia’s Bromo-Tengger National Park, where catching a glimpse of the volcano’s lunar-like beauty requires barely more effort than it would to pull up a photo on your laptop.

At 2,782 meters, the slightly taller Panajakan, which offers the best view in the Bromo area, may not have the stature of other peaks on this list, but when you can hire a four-wheel drive to take you within five meters of the summit for a sunrise view of the steaming Bromo National Park volcanoes and surrounding Sea of Sands, all while enjoying tea and barbecued corn on the cob at a peaktop warung, who’s going to quibble about a few thousand meters’ difference?

Where to start: Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park is most often accessed from nearby Cemero Lawang, the closest village and park entry point, where you’ll need to pay 25,000 rupiah (US$2.80).

Cemero Lawang and other nearby villages have good hostel accommodations — try Lava View Lodge or Caf Lava — but tours are easily arranged in many East Java cities as well. Try to avoid weekends, when easy access means big crowds.

Global Adventure Indonesia; (Caf Lava and Lava View Lodge); +62 354 391163; globaladventure@indo.net.id;http://globaladventureindonesia.com/cafe-lava

Bromo Iljen Tours; +62 333 774 5081; http://www.bromoijentours.com/tour

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3. Purists: Matterhorn, Switzerland

So good, they modeled a chocolate bar after it.

Some say the Matterhorn has been overcome by tourism as guiding companies made the peak accessible to anyone. But if you want to go back to the birthplace of mountaineering, this 4,480-meter Swiss peak — the most recognizable in Europe, jutting high above the surrounding Alps — is the place to be.

Climb with any of the guiding companies on the peak today and you’ll be roughing it a bit less than the first ascenders (think real gear and well-maintained huts along the Hornli Ridge with food decidedly more attractive than your standard freeze-dried trail dinner), but you’ll still be following in the footsteps of the hardy few who created the sport.

To get a feel for the long mountaineering history you’ll be joining, check out the Matterhorn museum at the base, but save it for after your successful ascent — it contains nearly as many homages to failed Matterhorn attempts as the Zermatt Cemetery.

Where to start: Zermatt is your base camp for a Matterhorn climb, and it’s easy to find a guide or any equipment you need in this town, which may not feel as traditional as purists would like, but caters to the skier/climber crowd perfectly.

Take a cable car to Schwartzsee and spend the night in Hornli Hut on Hornli Ridge before rising early for a long but single-day ascent that will leave you time to explore the rest of the Swiss Alps. To avoid feeling like you’re being herded up the mountain, avoid the high season from mid-June to late-August.

Adventure Consultants; + 1 866 757 8722; info@adventure.co.nz; http://www.adventureconsultants.com

Alpine Ascents; +1 206 378 1927; climb@alpineascents.com; http://www.alpineascents.com/matterhorn.asp

4. Aspiring Ansels: Fitzroy and Cerro Torre, Argentina

Don’t forget your camera, and don’t forget to use it.

No ascent is complete without the victory shot that proves you made it to the top, but climb Fitzroy and Cerro with a photographer and they’ll get so caught up in these Patagonian peaks’ otherworldly scenery you’ll have to remind them you’re here to climb the peaks, not just stand back in awe.

You’ll have to work for the perfect shot — not only is Patagonia’s weather notoriously fickle, Fitzroy is no walk in the park. Technical climbing skills for rock and ice are a must on any route, and if its 3,375 meters make it a relative dwarf, it’s still no trophy peak.

Catch a view of the granite spires reaching skyward, though, and it will more than make up for the challenge. For those who are more photographer than climber, nearby Cerro Torre offers scenery nearly as epic, with none of the technical work.

Where to start: You’ll rack up some flier miles getting here — Buenos Aires to El Calafte, though LADE, an airline operated by the Argentinian air force, offers cheap flights if you book far enough ahead. Hop on a bus from in El Calafte and enjoy the adventurous four-hour ride to El Chalten, the most common home base for Fitzroy ascents. You’ll also need to pick up a (free) climbing permit at the national park office in El Chalten.

Andes; +44 1556 603929; john@andes.org.uk; http://www.andes.org.uk

American Alpine Institute; +1 360 671 1505; info@aai.cc; http://www.aai.cc

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5. Families: Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

You may even spot Simba from the top.

Kilimanjaro’s family-friendly draw isn’t the safari surroundings, though “Lion King” lovers young and old will no doubt delight in the wildlife sightings.

If you’re planning to bring the whole family on your next mountain adventure, Kilimanjaro has a relatively low minimum age — 10 years — compared to other summits of its stature, and though the thin air at 5,895 meters is a challenge, multiple walk-up routes make it a good pick for budding mountaineers.

It’s also the top pick for sheer diversity in the sights along the way. You’ll travel through five different climactic zones en route to the “roof of Africa” and if you follow the Machame route, you’ll likely see a wide range of wildlife too — although many guides also offer safaris as an end-of-climb addition that will appeal to all ages.

Where to start: Anyone climbing Kilimanjaro must use a local guide, but with literally hundreds of companies offering expeditions, you should have no trouble finding one that fits your needs. This is a trip to plan ahead for — you’ll need a hefty dose of vaccinations and a visa to enter Tanzania, but one-of-a-kind Kilimanjaro is worth it. If you’re a stickler for the details, make sure you reach the top of the highest of the highest of the three extinct volcanoes that form the peak, Uhuru.

Adventure Consultants; +1 866 757 8722; info@adventure.co.nz; http://www.adventureconsultants.com

Alpine Ascents; +1 206 378 1927; climb@alpineascents.com; http://www.alpineascents.com

International Mountain Guides; +1 360 569 2609; office@mountainguides.com; http://www.mountainguides.com

6. Weekend warriors: Grand Teton, United States

One day up, one day down, a lifetime of bragging.

If you’re short on time and trekking experience, few peaks make it as quick and easy to get classic scenery and name appeal as Wyoming’s Grand Teton.

It’s the iconic mountain of the American west, and views of its jagged summit have a “wow factor” belying its relatively short stature that will leave your ignorant friends back home in awe of your newfound climbing chops.

You won’t even have to miss much time at the office — other big-name peaks take a week, at least, to climb, but the Grand Teton’s 4,179 meters make it doable in two days (one if you’re in superhuman shape and ready to work).

With several flights a day landing in nearby Jackson Hole, it’s a packed but feasible long weekend, even if you tack on the two-day introductory course most guiding companies offer before the summit bid. Make it back in time to do a little bragging before your meetings — and the real world — intrude again.

Where to start: There are several guide companies to choose from, but Exum sets the standard. They’re the oldest, having guided the peak for 80 years, and due to an official relationship with the park, have the highest campsite on the mountain, on the saddle between the Middle and Grand peaks.

Most climbers will ascend the classic but beginner-friendly Owen-Spalding Route (but watch out for the thrilling but vertigo-inducing Belly Roll pitch).

Exum Mountain Guides; +1 307 733 2297; exum@exumguides.com; http://www.exumguides.com

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7. Gourmets: Dolomites, Italy

Best way to work up an appetite.

Mountain climbers may not be known for living the high-class life, but Italy’s Dolomites elevate trekking above its backpacker stereotypes.

The range is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Le Corbusier called them “the most beautiful architectures in the world,” but for serious foodies, the appeal is as much in the valley villages between the peaks, where a long day of trekking is richly rewarded with Italian cuisine.

The peaks’ average height is around 3,000 meters, and the tallest, Punta Penia, is just 3,343, but deep valleys mean you’ll work up an appetite to justify extra helpings of homemade pasta and gelato at the guesthouses along the way (there’s no need to rough it here).

Routes range from easy hikes for those who are more gourmet than climber to 20-pitch big wall climbs, including the north face of Cima Grande, considered one of the best walls in the Alps. And for a true Dolomites experience, be sure to check out the “via ferrata” — as long as you’re not scared of heights. These routes, formerly supply lines from Italy and Austria’s pre-World War I rivalry, are so exposed they’ve been protected with cables and ropes, but offer the best views and are some of the most popular routes in the entire range.

Where to start: No guides needed here — and with so many peaks and regions to pick from, you really can’t go wrong. The easiest way to reach the range is by car, as trains only reach the outer valleys. However, the Dolomitibus bus service offers good connections, though you’ll have to be careful not to miss the stops, which hit each village just a handful of times per day. Accommodations are easily found online — see dolomitesinfo.com for info on the whole region and suedtirolerland.it for the northern and western valleys.

International Mountain Guides; +1 360 569 2609; office@mountainguides.com; http://www.mountainguides.com

8. Party people: Cotopaxi, Ecuador

It looks like a reflection, but after this much partying it could all be in your mind.

As a frequent pre-Everest test, Ecuador’s Cotopaxi is a serious challenge — all the more reason to reward yourself after bagging the 5,897-meter peak with a tour of South America’s vibrant party scene.

Cotopaxi is the most popular high altitude summit in Ecuador and the third largest volcano in the world. The national park is just 55 kilometers south of Quito and Cotopaxi’s perfectly shaped cone is instantly recognizable, giving you the willpower to pass by the party scene on the way to the mountains — it will still be there when you get back, but good weather on the summit might not hang around.

For your victory celebration, Quito may be the most famous option, but other towns in the area — accessible by car or trek — offer plenty of choices. Check out Banos, which has something for everyone in your climbing party — hiking, mountain biking, hot springs, cheap hotels, all-night discos and all the Spanish rap you can handle.

Where to start: Plenty of guiding companies offer Cotopaxi climbs, based internationally and locally. Be aware that you get what you pay for — some local outfits may be a steal compared to overseas operators, but have also been known to be less than committed to getting you to the top. After reaching Quito, you’ll have a choice between the north and south routes — north has better views, but the ride will leave you a little more bruised than the southern option. No permit is needed, but there is a fee to enter the national park and a separate refuge fee jumped to US$42.70 as of June 1, 2011.

Alpine Ascents; +1 206 378 1927; climb@alpineascents.com; http://www.alpineascents.com

International Mountain Guides; +1 360 569 2609; office@mountainguides.com; http://www.mountainguides.com

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9. Ski bums: Elbrus, Russia

Never too cold if you remember to pack a flask of vodka.

The Alps may be home to Europe’s most famous skiing, but real ski bums know to head east. While other European resorts worry about dwindling snowfall and shorter ski seasons, Russia’s Mount Elbrus is above their fears — literally.

The highest peak in Europe at 5,642 meters, Elbrus almost guarantees you some good skiing, and carries Seven Summits standing for an added bonus. The climb’s most popular route is not technical, but don’t underestimate the challenge of real altitude and chilly conditions.

Fortunately, the active rest days built into your acclimatization plan are the perfect excuse to break up your ascent with a few days of cat skiing before the final ski descent. And if you still haven’t logged enough vertical meters by the end, the thousand-kilometer Baksan Valley offers the most developed ski resorts in the Caucasus range, with heli and cat ski tours on Elbrus and the surrounding peaks.

Where to start: Most climbers fly into Min Voldy before heading to Terskol, a town at Elbrus’s base with two ski lifts and several hotel options, but you won’t need to worry about the details if you join one of the many expeditions run by well-known international guiding companies, a good idea since the seemingly easy route can turn dangerous during Elbrus’s violent storms. April, May and June are the best months for a ski descent.

Mountain Madness; +1 800 328 5925; info@mountainmadness.com; http://www.mountainmadness.com

Pilgrim Tours; elbrus@pilgrim-tours.com; http://www.pilgrim-tours.com

10. Loners: Mount Khuiten, Mongolia

Don’t need a guide, just a set of healthy lungs.

Make it to the summit of Mongolia’s 4,373-meter Mount Khuiten, and you’ll have the golden Altai range vistas all to yourself.

The trek is as much a part of the experience as the climb itself, with only the occasional horsemen interrupting vast skies and the empty expanse below. The climb itself isn’t too challenging, although you will run into some 30 to 40-degree pitches of ice and snow whichever route you ascend.

Though you can make the ascent alone, climbers who are hesitant to cut off all links to civilization can join one of several guiding companies offering Mount Khuiten expeditions, based both in Mongolia and abroad, most of which offer the chance to try your hand at horse or camel riding, or take in a traditional festival in one of the few towns you’ll pass on the way in.

Where to start: Ulaanbataar is the nearest major airport and is also the place to go to pick up any last-minute gear for your ascent, though you can also arrange a flight to Bayan Olgii in Western Mongolia, leaving just one more four-wheel drive transfer and a day of trekking before the start of the climb. Most climbers ascend Potin, Mongolia’s largest glacier, but head up the southeast ridge for a more challenging ascent.

If you don’t go with an expedition, be sure to arrange a local driver and translator — you’ll need to pick up permits from three different authorities in Olgii, make your way through several checkpoints on the way in, and navigating the remote, sometimes roadless areas is no picnic on your own, even for agoraphobes. Olgii’s Central Mongol Altai Mountain Club can be a good resource as well.

KE Adventure Travel; +1 888 630 4415; info@keadventure.com; http://www.keadventure.com

Alpine Ascents; +1 206 378 1927; climb@alpineascents.com; http://www.alpineascents.com

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Hotels provide newer, better club lounges

(CNN) — Move over, room upgrades. There’s a new hotel perk in town, and it might be worth more to business travelers than a bigger bed.

“Like many airlines, hotels such as InterContinental and Hyatt are now opening exclusive hotel club lounges to entice travelers to book with them,” says Clem Bason, president of travel website company the Hotwire Group.

Club, concierge or executive lounges, which typically require upgraded room bookings or frequent guest program membership, can be a lifesaver for busy business travelers. Perks include being able to take a shower before the room is ready, meeting privately with a client or enjoying free meals, concierge services and cocktails in a private setting.

The number of lounges is growing, especially among high-end hotels. About 18 percent of more than 8,500 hotels at all levels surveyed last year by the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Foundation have a club floor or lounge. That’s up from 10 percent in 2004. Of those hotels, 89 percent of them were classified as luxury or upper upscale.

While club lounges been around for decades, they have become a renovation priority for hotels looking to keep room occupancy high and secure customer loyalty during the recession, says Dr. Lalia Rach, a board member of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International.

The Sheraton hotel chain invested more than $100 million to upgrade 120 club lounges around the world after Starwood Preferred Guest members, which make up half of Sheraton bookings, rated them as one of the top two benefits of staying there. The Sheraton Club experience is available to all Starwood program members or with a room upgrade.

Lounges are also a way for a hotel to reinforce its brand via d cor, ambiance, convenience, comfort and amenities. They’re also not limited to business travelers: families and leisure travelers are also catching on, though some hotels cater more to business needs than others. Hotel lounges are generally “less stuffy,” offer more luxurious services and are more comfortable than they used to be.

“We like to live our lives in public. The club lounge is becoming more of a den,” Rach says.

Lounge amenities vary widely by hotel brand, and there are several ways to access them. Smaller hotel chains and independent hotels often offer free access for booking higher end suites, while many larger hotel chains make it a frequent guest perk and may or may not charge a daily fee for the service.

For example, travelers gain free access to the club lounge at London’s new St. Ermin’s Hotel — one of four hotels owned by Amerimar Enterprises — by booking king suites.

“Any guest who books the appropriate level room and requires privacy for a meeting can utilize the lounge. It’s geared toward the business traveler but open to anyone based on booking. All guests who have access are told about it in advance,” says Douglas McHugh, general manager of St. Ermin’s. Its club lounge includes a full bathroom with shower, meeting room with audio/visual equipment, tables, to-go coffee and gourmet hors d’oeuvres.

Business travelers should inquire about club lounge requirements and amenities at the time of booking, says Sandi Daniel, CEO of the Fire Light Group, which coordinates incentive packages for business travelers. Ask whether it is quiet, has reliable Wi-Fi and morning newspapers, and quality to-go items. Lounges that open early and stay open late are most convenient for business travelers, Rach says.

Mid-range chains like Hyatt, Marriott, Sheraton and Starwood typically include continental breakfasts, hors d’oeuvres, non-alcoholic beverages, computer use and private concierge attendants, Daniel says.

“These lounges are a great place to wind down without hanging out in a large hotel lobby bar area where it can be noisy, and also a bit of a singles scene sometimes,” Daniel says. “If you just want to catch up on e-mail, relax, maybe have a snack and a cocktail, it has a more homey feel, which is often so much nicer then locking yourself up in your hotel room and ordering room service.”

Luxury chains like the Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, Fairmont and St. Regis take it one step further, often offering complimentary full breakfasts, heavy hors d’oeuvres, cordials, desserts, cocktails, champagne and private concierge services.

“For light eaters, it is enough food to get by without having to go out somewhere and dine alone in a restaurant or order room service,” Daniel says. “As a woman who has traveled in business for over 30 years, I find these clubs to be a godsend for many reasons. They are often only accessible with your room key, which makes safer travel.”

The hotel industry is starting to understand that business travelers want soothing, exclusive and convenient experiences, Rach says, but there’s still work to be done across the board. She hopes other hotels will follow the chains that have done club lounges well.

“Our industry has not put the money into renovation. It’s time for the industry to refresh itself.”

Source Blucigs

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CNN Student News Transcript – October 14, 2011

(CNN Student News)October 14, 2011

Download PDF maps related to today’s show:

South Korea
Colombia
Panama
Cuba

Click here to access the transcript of today’s CNN Student News program.

Please note that there may be a delay between the time when the video is available and when the transcript is published.

Source Blucigs

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