As featured in Hotel Executive
By Bryan Green, President, Advantage Fitness Products
Consumers today seemingly cannot watch TV, take a stroll, or even engage in conversation with friends or family without being messaged in some way about healthcare or our greater wellbeing. One might argue that we are now experiencing a “Tipping Point” as acclaimed author Malcolm Gladwell would define it. Gladwell defines a tipping point as “a moment of critical mass or boiling point” when describing sociological changes that mark our everyday lives. As Gladwell states, “Ideas and messages and behaviors spread like viruses do.” With our nation’s current obesity crisis still growing, it would appear that such a viral definition of our collective requirement to exercise is still far from becoming completely infectious. However, make no mistake about it; awareness is spreading rapidly and legions of consumers are adopting varying levels of commitment to daily activity. Most experts now agree that physical fitness is the single greatest preventative medicine we have available to us. Therefore, what more current and powerful way to attract customers to your offering than to weave into the collective fabric of an increasingly fitness-conscious society?
Non-traditional fitness facilities such as those found in hotels, corporations, housing developments, and country clubs are growing rapidly in popularity and are completely redefining how and where we exercise. The traditional health club environment has many limitations. As important as these facilities are as our nation’s basis for some of the best health and fitness programming available, only one in ten American’s actually hold memberships to these facilities. Furthermore, typically health clubs are a revolving door of new members replacing old members that for one reason or another were unable to achieve the results they originally sought out from the gym. What might surprise you is that often this attrition level has little to do with the quality of the facility, equipment, or available instruction.
The truth is, asking folks to break from the demands of their busy lives and their daily routines to embrace fitness through a health club membership is for many, unrealistic. The solutionresides in finding ways to weave fitness into their routines and into the places that life already demands they be. Tens of Millions of consumers are desperately trying to integrate wellness into their lives now. As purveyors of fitness in non-traditional environments like hotels and resorts, we have a unique opportunity to help them in this quest for a healthier life, while simultaneously serving our own business interests.
Consider the following critical factors as they relate to the elevating importance of non-traditional offerings in fitness:
Convenience & Accessiblity
Again, exercise isn’t inherently convenient for most of us. For those who haven’t easily adopted activity within their daily lives, exercise requires an allocation of time, perhaps at the expense of other components of an already demanding schedule.. Typically our jobs, school or families are time-demanding enough. Integrating two or more hours necessary to travel to and from the gym and get a workout in can be a daunting proposition. This is why fitness needs to be as convenient as possible. There’s no doubt that more of us would embrace fitness, if only our workplace featured a fitness center where we could exercise at lunch or before or after work without the need for yet another commute to a health club. Same goes for apartment or condo communities where residents merely walk over to the fitness center where they can interact with neighbors and friends while exercising. By natural extension, hotels and resorts can offer this same convenience factor to business travelers and vacationers. The hospitality industry also enjoys the element of captivity, where guests are seeking ways to fill their downtime and don’t have the typical alternatives afforded to them at home.
The solution isn’t found in merely one or the other of these non-traditional locations, but rather in them collectively. It’s the availability and diversity of these options for consumers that will serve to integrate a consistent exercise routine into their lives. Thus, a successful and well- established offering in fitness will insure that they are spending part of that journey with you.
A factor that impedes use of health clubs is certainly cost. Not simply the membership itself, but the costs associated with transportation and certainly the value one puts on one’s time. Beyond a focus on costs, it’s important for business owners to take into account that a corporate-fitness program may have significant impact on employee health and attendance, productivity and performance, and hence will result in a boost to profits. Add to this the positive effect on lower insurance premiums; many employers are working feverishly to intergrate these offerings. For other environments that aren’t everyday alternatives such as a hotel, economic value is predominately realized through the attraction of wellness-minded guests, retention of existing customers, and in some cases revenue-driving measures such as retail sales of healthy convenience food items, workout accessories, and personal- or group-training services.
Inclusive and Connected
As we’ve stated, health clubs are dominated by the 10 percent of America that’s already made fitness a component of their lifestyle. This can make it a bit intimidating for the newcomer who enters this fray of exercise-motivated and healthy members. Establishing motivation and momentum in a fitness regimen is tough as it is. The concept of “inclusiveness” for non-traditional environments is a vastly underrated and often-overlooked benefit. There’s a shared “community” that’s far stronger and significantly easier to target with co-workers in a corporate fitness facility or neighbors in a residential community fitness center, than typically exists among those attending commercial health clubs. For hotels and those with similar and tailored offerings in fitness, there’s a shared camaraderie and similar experience available amongst guests. They are either taking a break from the business-travel rat race for a needed escape through exercise, or staying true to a commitment to fitness even amidst a well-deserved vacation.
Make it Fun
Another common shortcoming with large health clubs and other traditional facilities is that with poor planning or limited user direction, they can be pretty boring. A sea of available exercise equipment and accessories does not equate to a stimulating or motivational exercise environment. Considerations for entertainment integration, interactive-exercise gaming or sport-specific training elements are several contemporary ways to make fitness fun. It’s often easier for a non-traditional environment to accomplish this, as you don’t have to be everything to everyone like a big box health club aspires to be. You can tailor the features of your facility to the more-specific needs of your audience. This is where retention statistics escalate significantly.
One thing is for certain, the demand for fitness and wellness-based programming is only going to increase. Those facilities that embrace this growing demand with tailored solutions for their customers are going to reap the benefits.
All fitness facilities need to start with a plan and remain flexible to continually create and support such a dynamic environment. Fitness trends are consistently changing, and an offering in fitness certainly cannot be viewed as a one-time investment in fitness equipment and build out. However, the upside for the operator is that fitness is a consistent and sustainable driver for customer acquisition and retention, customer satisfaction, and incremental revenue that offsets costs and supports your bottom line.
The tipping point has begun. What side of the pendulum are you currently on?