How hotels are going on a fitness kick

Today’s hotels are making it easier and more appealing to exercise away when away from home than ever before.

May 27, 2019

Working out in a hotel is no longer a choice between a treadmill in a small gym, laps of the pool or a 7am yoga class.

With health and fitness an engrained part of modern living, a growing number of hotel chains are making it easier than ever to squeeze in a workout when away from home. So easy in fact, the equipment can be right next to the bed. 

Hotel brands such as DoubleTree by Hilton offer guests Five Feet to Fitness rooms with exercise bikes and keep-fit stations, while Westin by Marriott and Even Hotels by Intercontinental are offering guests bedrooms with training equipment from weights and yoga mats to TRX straps.

“Waking up to the sight of kettlebells is the ultimate motivation for guests who may struggle to keep up their existing fitness plans while on the road,” says Geraldine Guichardo, head of Americas Hotels & Hospitality Research at JLL. “More and more hotel brands – aware of the growing consumer pursuit of health and wellness – are enhancing their offerings.”

Meanwhile, on-demand sessions via TV screens, offer further options for guests who prefer to exercise in private. And the old excuse of no space in the suitcase for trainers doesn’t work; the likes of Westin will loan guests freshly laundered gym gear.

For hotel operators, in-room equipment may be more profitable than the offering a full gym, given other revenue-generating opportunities the physical space could be used for, says Guichardo.

In the case of Hilton hotels, customer feedback was behind the decision to offer in-room training facilities, with a quarter of respondents expressing interest in an in-room option in 2017.

On average, travelers have good intentions before their trip to keep their fitness regime on track, according to a Cornell University School of Hotel Administration report. The study found that while 46 percent of guests expected to work out during their hotel stay, only 22 percent actually did so. But at the booking stage, high-quality fitness offerings can play a part in swaying health-conscious guests towards a particular hotel. 

Healthy options

The growing presence of in-room equipment doesn’t spell the end of the hotel gym. But the pressure is on to provide modern facilities akin to what guests are used to at their home gyms, says Guichardo.

“Simply adding a couple of treadmills won’t cut it,” she says. “Exercise equipment can be an expensive investment that needs to be regularly maintained and updated. But hotels need to know what the popular fitness trends are and cater for these without being perceived as gimmicky.

“If there’s equipment that people don’t know how to use, it could be a waste of money or worse, lead to people using it incorrectly.”

Equally, hotels can risk looking unauthentic by not matching their offer with, for example, low-carb or low-fat meal options.

“Health and wellness extends across the entire hotel experience, from breakfast to bedtime,” says Guichardo. “If a hotel wants to promote a health and wellness message, all of its offerings should align with that.”

High-quality hotel gyms don’t just have to target guests; they can also draw in local residents on a health drive of their own, particularly in heavily-populated areas of town.

“This may not work well in the less-frequented outer districts of town,” says Guichardo. “But in urban areas, hotels can look to tap into professionals working nearby to give gyms a buzz and generate additional revenue.”

Warming up

Competition among major hotel operators is heating up with the arrival of new concepts such as Equinox, which is opening its first Equinox Hotel in Hudson Yards, New York, in June.

Going beyond its 60,000 square foot gym along with personal training services, SoulCycle studio and spa, the hotel will also offer a healthy eating restaurant and bedrooms billed as the ‘ultimate sleep chamber’.

While such health-centered concepts are still very niche, the emergence of such a focused operator as Equinox will draw attention from more traditional hotel operators, Guichardo says.

“Less fitness-focused operators will be watching the progress and seeing how they can compete,” she says.

Not all hotels, however, will or should make fitness a priority.

“Hotels must understand the needs of their particular demand base and determine what enhancements provide the best experience for their guests,” she says. “Fitness among guests is undoubtedly a trend that’s here to stay but different people have different ways of exercising and no hotel can cater to them all.” 

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