WESTIN BECOMES FIRST SMOKE-FREE MAJOR HOTEL CHAIN

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Westin is snuffing out smoking chain-wide. Effective January 2006, all 77 Westin Hotels & Resorts will become smoke-free, affecting all guestrooms and public spaces, including poolside areas, according to an announcement from Westin's parent company, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

The policy reflects 'a demand from guests for a smoke-free hotel experience,' says Sue Brush, Westin senior vice president. 'Nobody likes to walk into a smoky guest room — not even smokers.' Westin's customer data reveals that a majority of travelers prefer a smoke-free environment. Over 90% percent of Westin guests request a non-smoking room. It's also 'a natural fit for the Westin Hotels new Renewal brand positioning,' says spokesperson Ellen Gallo, which is geared toward 'offering guests services, products and amenities that allow them to relax, rejuvenate and restore during their stay.'

Eight North American Westins already have been successfully smoke-free, including The Westin La Paloma, Tucson, Ariz., The Westin Maui, The Westin St. John, and The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler, B.C. Guests will be able to smoke from their balconies, and the properties will offer designated outdoor smoking areas. Any guest caught violating the smoking ban will have $200 cleaning fee added to their bill.

The no-smoking trend will be prompting more hotels to go smoke-free. California's Joie de Vivre boutique-hotel chain designates 80% of the 28 properties as smoke-free. No-smoking rooms also need less cleaning and maintenance, which saves the hotels money. For a big chain to make such a major policy shift is 'very cutting-edge,' American Hotel & Lodging Association President Joseph McInerney said in a statement. 'The industry is sure to take notice.'