As featured in Hotel Executive Magazine
By Bryan Green, President, Advantage Fitness Products
The fitness industry is constantly evolving. As exercise physiologists, fitness and athletic trainers and wellness professionals push the envelope of untapped knowledge and new technologies, fitness trends emerge and change. Most importantly, as these changes occur, so do the expectations and demands of consumers.
This places a unique demand on fitness center operators to be aware and prepared to respond to these changing consumer demands. Fitness services can absolutely drive bottom line goals for hotels and resorts including revenue generation, but most certainly in guest experience, retention, and beyond. However, significant returns are only realized by management committed to keeping their facilities in line with these changing trends and consumer demands. Fitness is no longer a “throw in” to a hotel or resort’s mix of services. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the current trends that are pushing the industry and consumer demand into uncharted terrain.
A Historical Perspective
A look back at the past forty years only reinforces the ever-evolving nature of fitness and its impact on consumer demand. The ‘70s saw resistance training (weight lifting) transcend beefcakes and body-builders and become the norm for individuals of all fitness levels. This was the beginning of health and fitness finding its way into the fabric of mainstream society. In the ‘80s it was all about aerobics and the emergence of group training, fitness centers began featuring adjacent group training rooms to accommodate group fitness classes. With that, the fitness “boom” was official. The 90s brought Pilates, and a resurgence of yoga and other “alternative” fitness methods into the mainstream. Suddenly, fitness environments of all types including hotels and spas began offering their own variety and refinement of these modalities. Suddenly, fitness was about a lot more than simply looking good. It was about living longer and healthier. Most recently, “core” training and functional fitness have become the emphasis in a balanced exercise approach, and fitness center offerings have followed suit. So what’s next?
Trend #1 - Smaller is Better
While the large facility model is alive and well among mainstream health club chains, the trend is now toward smaller, boutique facilities. There are a growing number of consumers looking to escape the mayhem and hassles associated with large health clubs to a more personal environment. An obvious benefit hotels and resorts can provide is the convenience for travelers to satisfy their fitness needs on property, instead of going elsewhere to visit local area health clubs. But surprisingly, more and more hotels and resorts are expanding their focus beyond guests, offering access to the local community as an alternative to the large health club experience, through a limited membership model. Furthermore, the growing lifestyle emphasis on health and wellness in combination with the need for convenience has enabled a market for smaller, more accessible facilities. The maturity of the industry itself has also spawned a multitude of models offering both luxury and full fitness equipment service offerings. This has certainly perpetuated a new fitness-minded consumer that seeks a more intimate, personalized experience. The big health club chains can’t offer this, but resort and hotel fitness centers most certainly can. Fitness and spa managers at hotels and resorts should seek creative ways to position fitness centers and capture this “chic” vibe that boutique facilities possess. This can be achieved in marketing and promotional vehicles on property as well as communications vehicles aimed at guest acquisition.
Trend #2 – Going Green
Consistent with the buzz in much of today’s consumer-driven industries, the emphasis in fitness on environmentally friendly products and services has emerged. This is seen prominently in the specific materials being used in a variety of products such as yoga mats, stability balls, and even the facility floor covering. Manufacturers such as Precor have begun to concentrate on bringing first-in-class treadmills to market requiring less power than commonly required in this category. In other products such as the company’s elliptical trainers, climbers, and cycles no external power is required as the units are now 100% self-generating by the user’s own effort and the equipment’s ability to store energy. Frankly, these areas are only the tip of the iceberg and look for several emerging technologies and products coming to market over the next few years that can help your facility become environmentally compliant.
Trend #3 – Emphasizing Hygiene
It’s not the sexiest topic, but it’s certainly not one that you can afford to ignore. Hygiene has become a major hot-button in the fitness industry and in the mind of the facility user. A variety of factors, including the significant number of MRSA (Commonly known as “staph”) infections that have occurred within health clubs throughout the world have prompted a major increase in the emphasis on hygiene both within the industry and among consumers. Regardless of how ambitious or simplistic your bottom line goals are for your facility, it needs to be hygienically sound at all times…no exceptions. The “fix” is an easy one with a myriad of products now available to achieve this. Unique and stylish wall-mounted and floor “handy wipe” dispensers, featuring disinfectants ensure machines are cleaned properly after each use. In the very least, you will have provided the user piece of mind and the ability to wipe down the contact areas of the machine prior to exercise. Floor treatments and materials are now designed to avoid unhealthy mildews and molds that are common in high activity, fitness center environments. Seeking consultation is highly advisable in equipment selection, floor coverings, and visibly demonstrating to guests your commitment to cleanliness will provide guests comfort and confidence in the use of your facility.
Trend #4 – “Digital” Fitness
One of the most intriguing bi-products of the digital revolution and the emergence of interactive technology has been in the realm of fitness. We’ve all seen the gaming industry turned upside down by products like the popular Wii, which allows users to actually become a part of the games they are playing by performing the exact physical motions and activities involved in these various sports and games. Through the use of hand-held digital devices, users are controlling the motions and outcomes of what they are seeing on the screen. The software developers responsible for this technology have found a unique home for it in fitness and exercise applications where the technology provides a totally unique and entertaining way to exercise. Companies like Xavix have chosen to focus nearly exclusively on its fitness offering in gaming. Full-blown aerobic workouts, housed within the experience of competitive boxing, martial arts or dance-based gaming activities that entertain users while they’re getting into shape. This would appear to be another area where technology and product development are only beginning to have the impact we would expect to see spilling over into fitness environments everywhere.
Trend #5 – Accelerated Fitness
Another emerging area under the heading of “high-tech fitness” is Acceleration Training (aka, “vibration training”). This is an area that began a slow emergence five years ago, when the company, Power Plate first introduced vibration training products globally. But in the past 18 months Acceleration Training has seen a massive expansion with a significant number of new brands entering the market. A critical point of appeal with this innovative exercise method is time efficiency – Full-blown, full-body workouts in a fraction of the time as conventional exercise methods. Acceleration Training also goes far in shattering the “no pain, no gain” fitness cliché, offering arguably the most non-invasive and low-impact fitness method available, while yielding a truly astounding array of fitness and wellness benefits. Best of all, these varying benefits, including muscle and bone strength, flexibility, detoxification and increased hormonal profile are achieved in literally a fraction of the time necessary with conventional exercise methods and without the rigors and wear and tear that higher-impact training methods demand. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s not. There’s a significant amount of research available on the subject, and the list of users includes the world’s elite athletic and personal trainers, professional and college sports teams all over the world (nearly every NFL team is currently using vibration-based exercise products by Power Plate and other manufacturers), and more and more mainstream health clubs.
These are some of the top-line trends that are making waves throughout the fitness industry and in turn, changing the expectations of consumers. The ever-changing landscape of fitness and exercise can be seen as challenging, but professionals armed with a commitment to driving tangible bottom-line returns would be wise to embrace these changes as opportunities.
Bryan Green is President and CEO of Advantage Fitness Products, a company dedicated to providing fitness solutions to non-fitness companies. AFP offers a full complement of services including Planning, Design, Supply, Service, and ongoing facility Support to help make fitness a valuable and profitable offering for clients across several industries including: Hospitality; Professional & Collegiate Sports; Education & Recreation; Property Management; Corporations; Municipalities & Government Organizations; Medical, Health & Wellness Organizations; and Private Clubs. For more information regarding Advantage Fitness Products and our solutions, please call us at 888-895-0547.