May 13, 2008, 1 a.m. (ET)
For Immediate Release May 13, 2008 THE HILTON FAMILY OF HOTELS PREPS U.S. OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC HOPEFULS ON CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING FOR 2008 BEIJING GAMES Hotelier Enlists International TV News Correspondent Gideon Yago and Travel Etiquette Expert Roger Axtell to Lead Hospitality Training Program for Team USA COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.-In the next few months, Team USA will train diligently for Beijing without even breaking a sweat. Hilton Hotels Corporation, official sponsor of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams, today announced it will extend its global hospitality expertise to U.S. Olympians and Paralympians-offering important tips on Chinese customs, culture and etiquette in preparation for the upcoming Beijing Games. For U.S. Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, the benefit of the hospitality training is real. More than 40 percent of U.S. athletes admit they have inadvertently committed a cultural faux pas (a slip in etiquette, manners or conduct) while traveling abroad to compete, according to a new survey conducted by The Hilton Family of Hotels."Athletes are usually so focused on physical training that we forget to prepare for the new and often drastically different environment we'll encounter when we travel abroad,"said Paul Hamm, 2004 U.S. Olympic gold medalist in men's gymnastics. U.S. Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls will convene at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs on Tuesday, May 13 to learn valuable travel etiquette and cultural lessons as part of the hotelier's"be hospitable Traveler Program." Designed to promote cultural understanding and hospitable behavior among Team USA and general travelers alike, the program issues a call to ACT and emphasizes three core principles of hospitality: Awareness, Character and Thoughtfulness."Even the smallest of details can directly impact an athlete's performance when competing at the Olympic level so we try to prepare our athletes in every way possible,"said U.S. Olympic Committee Chief Executive Officer Jim Scherr."The Hilton Family is helping to ensure our U.S. athletes are on top of their game both on and off the field."The Hilton Family has enlisted international TV news correspondent Gideon Yago to share his personal travel insights and experiences, reinforcing the need for cultural sensitivity and understanding. In addition, Roger Axtell, acclaimed international protocol expert and best-selling author of the popular Do's and Taboos Around the World book series, will guide athletes through various cultural nuances and traditions they can expect to encounter in China. -more- Hilton Family of Hotels Preps U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hopefuls 2-2-2"The idea of the 'ugly American' comes from our tendency to think we do everything the right way and everybody else should do things the way we do,"Axtell said. "We aren't ugly, but unprepared, and that's why this program is so important. Our entire nation will be judged based on the behavior and actions of these U.S. athletes representing our country on the world stage in Beijing."Developed in collaboration with Axtell, Yago and other travel and cultural experts,"the be hospitable Traveler"program equips travelers with helpful hospitable tidbits via an interactive and mobile-friendly tool available at Some China-centric tips include"Long eye contact is considered disrespectful in China; do not be offended if a new acquaintance does not look you directly in the eye when shaking hands. Leaving a clean plate can be perceived to mean you were not given enough food. And, at dinner, never start conversations with business matters."Hotel concierges, front desk managers and other team members from each brand within The Hilton Family of Hotels contributed to the program curriculum."Hospitality is our gold standard,"said Jeff Diskin, Senior Vice President, Hilton Hotels Corporation."Our founder, Conrad Hilton, was committed to the belief that international travel can break down cultural barriers and we are honored to extend this philosophy to U.S. Olympians and Paralympians representing our country in Beijing."Diskin says business and leisure travelers can also take advantage of the interactive tool and hopes it will help enhance and encourage international travel among Americans. Currently, only about 30% of Americans have valid U.S. passports, according to the U.S. Department of State. For more information or to experience the be hospitable Traveler program online, visit About Hilton Family of Hotels Hilton Hotels Corporation is recognized internationally as a preeminent hospitality company. The company develops, owns, manages or franchises more than 3,000 hotels, resorts and vacation ownership properties. Its portfolio includes many of the world's best known and most highly regarded hotel brands, including Hilton, Conrad Hotels , Resorts, Doubletree, Embassy Suites Hotels, Hampton Inn, Hampton Inn , Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hilton Grand Vacations, Homewood Suites by Hilton and The Waldorf=Astoria Collection. The following service marks are owned by Hilton Hospitality, Inc.: Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites Hotels, Hampton Inn, Hampton Inn , Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hilton Grand Vacations, Homewood Suites by Hilton and The Waldorf=Astoria Collection. Conrad Hotels , Resorts is owned by Conrad Hospitality, LLC. About the U.S. Olympic Committee The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the sole entity in the United States whose mission involves training, entering and underwriting the full expenses for the U.S. teams in the Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American and Parapan American Games. In addition to being the steward of the U.S. Olympic Movement, the USOC is the moving force for support of sports in the United States that are on the program of the Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American and Parapan American Games.