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Some Hotels Teach Chess and Bartending... Really!

Some hotels are starting to feel like college campuses.

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Many have instructors to teach guests how to play chess, make pottery, mix a drink, cook, and do any number of other activities, including teaching kids how to behave.

The goal is to meet the demands of travelers who seek to stay physically — and mentally — balanced on the road. Among the offerings of classes from some hotels:

•At the James hotels in New York and Chicago, each room is equipped with all the supplies needed to make cocktails, including recipes. Guests can arrange for a bartender to conduct a private mixology lesson.

•At the Swissotel Chicago, guests soon will be able to sign up for free self-defense classes taught by the hotel's sous chef, a trained instructor. Chess classes will also be available.

•The Kensington Hotel, a Doyle Collection property in London, has started one-hour complimentary "Petite Etiquette" classes for children from ages 5 to 10. Kids are taught basic table manners so that parents can feel comfortable taking them out to dinner.

•The Omphoy Ocean Resort in Palm Beach, Fla., this summer will launch a "Surf Goddess" program that will include surfing lessons with overnight accommodations.

"There is more to the business than just rooms, food and beverage," says Chekitan Dev, associate professor of strategic marketing and brand management at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration.

Dev says hotels are "trying to explore or push the boundaries and say, 'What else can we give the guest that provides a more holistic experience?' "

Hotels say they're responding to guests who demand more options for healthier eating and living even when traveling.

"If you make it easier by offering unique classes and fitness equipment, they're likely to partake in it," says Nicole Ettenhofer, regional director of marketing and public relations for Swissotel Chicago.

At the Boca Raton Resort and Club in Florida, artist-in-residence Lynn Travis Stender's outdoor watercolor and acrylic painting classes are often booked solid.

Stender's students learn how to paint the ocean or the flowers and vegetation on the property.

"It's different, and you're leaving with your own masterpiece," she says. "I think it totally relaxes them."

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