The steep climb to awareness


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Viability's Guy Wilkinson writes a monthly column for Hotelier Middle East Magazine. This article originally appeared in June 2011.
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The steep climb to awareness

  1. 1. 22COMMENT The steep climb to awareness Viability director Guy Wilkinson is impressed with Starwood Middle East’s charity programmes, in particular the gruelling sponsored cycling challenges spearheaded by the company’s regional head and super cycler, Guido de Wilde you start, you know what is your objective; it’s about reaching the peak and in business it’s the same thing. You know where you’re going to end up.” Experiencing the true force of nature is another plus for de Wilde, who recounts how the team had to ride through a thunder storm last year. “It’s about resilience, persis- tence, camaraderie. Everyone is extremely thrilled when they make it to the top.” COLUMNIST This coming August, de Wilde and his friends – ranging from bell- believe most hoteliers boys and waiters up to senior direc- “I are people who like to give. That’s part of our culture,” says Guido de Wilde, Starwood’s senior vice pres- ident and regional director – Mid- tors like himself – will be riding 400 kilometres through the French Alps, involving eight climbs includ- ing the 2689 metre Galibier and the famous Alpe d’Huez, a stage dle East. Despite his modesty on finish line in the Tour de France the subject, he and the global chain which has 21 hairpins and a killer he works for are shining examples 8% gradient. To sponsor the team, of this philosophy. A keen cycling who aim to raise $250,000, a web enthusiast, de Wilde is the mas- site has been launched: www.road- termind behind Starwood Middle Funds raised East’s annual ‘Road to Awareness’ will go to provide equipment and fundraiser, which has seen a 20- teacher training for eight schools man team from the chain staging Guido de Wilde in the Pyrenees and part of the legendary course in the Dolomites tackled by the team last year. with 1600 pupils in the Sind Valley epic three-day sponsored rides over of Pakistan, where the recent floods the past three years to raise money that has seen Starwood raise some rode 400 kilometres through the damaged some 10,000 schools, for charity. US $23 million for UNICEF since French Pyrenees, raising $250,000 depriving six million children of It all began when de Wilde was 1995, through the simple measure of for street children in Cairo. Dur- education. Funds will also go to a child in the Flemish part of Bel- asking guests to add just one dollar ing that tour, they ascended the schools in Romania. gium. In common with so many of to their bill on check-out. Finally in 2100 metre Tourmalet climb, an This initiative is just one of his compatriots, he could not help 2007, de Wilde mooted the idea of a infamous landmark in the Tour de numerous charitable activities but be bitten by the cycling bug, fol- formal ride for charity. “I said, let’s France. Then last year they headed in which Starwood’s 47 regional lowing all the major international go every year for three days and do for the Dolomites in Italy, rais- hotels and their owners are races with the greatest enthusiasm. a legendary climb that professionals ing $427,000 for orphans in South engaged. “It’s mind-blowing when He finally bought his first racing do in the Tour de France and Giro Africa by dint of scaling no less you see all the activities,” says de bike in 1999, during a posting to d’Italia,” he explains. than seven climbs. These included Wilde. “Hoteliers are doing great the Algarve in Portugal, where the And so it was (who can argue the legendary Stelvio climb, which things, not for PR, but because it beautiful landscapes made for won- with the boss?). With a ‘road book’ ascends 2800 metres via 48 hairpin truly comes from the heart.” HME derful touring. It was there he first designed by de Wilde, in 2008 the bends over 25 kilometres, with an had the idea of combining cycling Starwood team rode 450 kilometres average gradient of 7.5%. for fun, with cycling for charity. from Avignon in France to Monte Just what is it about going up that “Supporting the community is Carlo, passing en route the fearsome appeals so much to de Wilde and his something we’ve been doing in our Mont Ventoux climb. They raised companions? “Reaching the peak is Guy Wilkinson is a director of Viability, a company for a very long time,” he $300,000 for a UNICEF project in the objective. First of all you need to hospitality and property consulting firm in Dubai. comments, citing as an example the Mozambique. In 2009, in the first like cycling! Otherwise there’s no For more information, e-mail: ‘Check Out for Children’ campaign gloom of the global recession, they point in doing it. You know where June 2011 • Hotelier Middle East