As featured in Hotel Executive
By Bryan Green, President, Advantage Fitness Products
Business and leisure hotels alike represent an escape, an escape from the same old, same old. Whether a short stint to support a critical business meeting, a week of R&R at a sprawling resort, guests respond to “new”, “fun”, and - perhaps most importantly - benefits and amenities they are actually inspired to take advantage of. For many, simply a great LCD TV in their room will bring joy. For others, learning that you have invested in a welcoming, energy-enhancing, (and dare we say “fun”) offering in fitness can send them over the moon. You may have just given them the best gift possible during their travels - helping them stay in the healthy and fit state of mind nearly all of us struggle with when on the road. If repeat and referral business from wellness-minded travelers is of benefit to you, here’s how you can begin to impress them:
1. First, build the right foundation
Before you look to add an enticing piece of new exercise equipment or replace a worn floor covering with a colorful rubber surface, ensure you have the right foundation of exercise balance to begin with. Often, the simple act of rebalancing your fitness equipment to better fit today’s more popular guest exercise demands will go a long way – and this might not cost you as much as you think. For instance, circuits of single station strength training equipment are currently being replaced by “functional trainers;” a larger but consolidated and more cost efficient cable-based exercise station. These units accommodate a wider range of users given their infinite adjustability and substantial exercise variety.
In terms of cardiovascular equipment, if your facility still has stair climbers, but finds itself short on elliptical trainers - you’re officially way behind guest expectations! The same could be said for having a larger percentage of upright bikes vs. the substantially more popular recumbent versions today. These examples and others can be outlined and effectively addressed by working closely with a competent fitness facility supply partner.
2. Don’t ever let the fitness center appear as an after-thought
How can you exceed your guest’s expectations when it comes to fitness? Many hotels today offer the finest restaurants, pools, and spas available. There is simply no reason why you can’t add your gym to that list of talked-about spaces on your property. In fact, doing so might get more attention than you anticipate. When it comes to a great hotel fitness center, size is by no means the most critical factor. Beyond exercise balance; energy, flow, and fun are the best ways to create an impactful experience. Natural light, entertainment (ambient forms via music and wall-mounted TV’s as well as personal viewing screens on cardiovascular equipment) and
engaging equipment are key.
When you feel good about the space you’re in, your natural energy levels increase. Further, guests become more receptive to your offerings. Think how much time you put into lobby design…it’s the same concept. Visitors will know you have paid attention here with strong use of color, functional planning, and of course, the right equipment. The translation? Your guests will know you care about their well-being as much as their comfort.
3. Fitness and boredom are a bad combination
When it comes to equipment, think fun! Once you have covered the basics, adding one or two new or exciting pieces of equipment will really go a long way to show you are committed to remaining current. Great examples exist today of interactive game bikes such as those offered by Expresso. For guests who may be missing their local spin class, the new eSpinner from Star Trac can provide them with a personal instructor during their stay! For those guests who know they should be stretching, but are not quite sure how and with what equipment to do it, the Precor StretchTrainer is a simple space-efficient, self guided station that will take them through a full body flexibility routine in as little as five minutes.
Whatever your choices, focus on making an impression. A measured amount of effort and ongoing attention will go a long way in avoiding your guests placing the common stigma of “incomplete and ineffective” on your hotel fitness facility.
4. Keep it clean
Let’s face it; traditionally we associate a fitness center with “gym germs”. All that sweat and heavy breathing - there must be all sorts of gook ready to attack us on those dumbbells and seats. But you don’t have to watch your guests tiptoe around the room. Simple but visible measures will provide instant peace of mind for guests wanting to breathe easy while working out. Pre-saturated anti-microbial wipes are a sure way to win points. Make sure you have a dispenser available for every 1500sq.ft. allocated for fitness.
Selecting the correct flooring (i.e. rubber vs. carpet) will provide a surface that can be easily cleaned and will not hold mildew, dirt or debris. Finally, a double-duty commitment to regularly scheduled cleaning of the facility is critical. You must allot a greater degree of focus in the gym vs. other common areas of the hotel. Otherwise, you have a breeding ground for germs.
5. Design with flexibility in mind
Exercise by definition is dynamic. Trends in exercise methods and modalities follow the same path of continuous change. Therefore, it’s essential to plan for and design your fitness space with inherent flexibility. It’s not only important to rotate your equipment timely to provide new features for your guests, but you must also look to expand or contract certain exercise areas of the facility (such as strength training or movement studio space) as trends dictate. Today, an open and flexible use of space continues to grow in importance – not simply to stuff more equipment in, but rather for today’s more popular exercise forms like Pilates, yoga, flexibility and core training, and even mixed martial arts. These exercises typically require more floor space than static equipment stations.
Balance in today’s exercise facilities is critical. Although it is unrealistic to be everything to everyone, a bit of planning, ongoing attention and budgeting for the fitness amenity are a requirement today that, if properly executed, will pay dividends in guest satisfaction. Esthetics are simply not enough to please those that will actually utilize the facility. Few things can to be more frustrating by fitness minded travelers that have garnered enough motivation to visit the fitness center only to find a less than desirable offering. Perhaps it’s the wild swing in ones expectation that they are about to relieve stress and then suddenly find themselves more amped up than before they laced up their sneakers.
With care and focus by management, you can nearly ensure a positive guest experience in the gym, but it has to be a continual priority of the property. Given that today an offering in fitness is truly no longer optional, the sooner your property embraces the necessary support this amenity requires, the easier it will become to stay on top of it and create more happy guests.