It’s been a while since the hotel fitness center was little more than a lesser-used room on the lower floor of most hotels. From humble beginnings in the basement, the average workout facility evolved over time into something closer to the chic, spa-like interiors we know today. But the actual fitness experience – the feeling of stress and calorie busting workouts at the end of a long day of meetings or sightseeing? That, hamstrung by the combined need for expensive equipment and finite square footage, unfortunately hasn’t kept pace.
But all of that is set for a makeover thanks to a shift in post-pandemic guest attitudes and evolving technologies that mean hospitality workout facilities are finally ready to break free of physical constraints and usher in a new era of experiences for guests and even cost savings for operators. In the fight for new consumer travel dollars, guest experience will reign supreme and fitness is fast becoming the next frontier for hotel operators to win. Let’s take a closer look at just what that means in the five principles of next generation guest fitness.
1) EMBRACE VIRTUAL EXPERIENCES
If the past 18 months taught us anything about almost every industry, it’s that consumer behavior can change rapidly when it must. E-commerce usage leapt 32.4 percent in 2020, curbside pickup is here to stay, food delivery app usage skyrocketed and the American consumer became even more reliant on, and engaged with, everything digital. Fitness is no different to any of these industries. A Market Research Future report in June of this year predicts a more than 30 CAGR from 2021-2026. That’s a huge jump in global adoption beyond what was an industry defining moment in 2020. For consumers now used to accessing live streamed classes at home as much as a live in-studio class at the gym, that trend and lifestyle expectation is now traveling with them – and headed your way.
2) MEET RECALIBRATED CONSUMER NEEDS
The hotel gym is a finite space. Most measure, on average, 350 square feet compared to 8,000 square feet at a commercial membership gym. It’s hard, if not impossible, to meet the recalibrated experiential needs of travelers in a limited physical footprint, no matter how chic or beautiful the design. Guest experience is fast becoming all about limit-free access, ultra-convenience and personalization. The trend swept across the club industry with members seeking coordinated, convenient experiences wherever they choose to work out: in the club, at home or on the go. In a hotel setting, think about the benefit of offering seamless, virtual fitness experiences to guests – access to the same fitness brand workouts, training programs and other fitness content that they engage with every day at home. In this way guests can follow their familiar program without missing a class, a session or a workout while they’re traveling. Whatever on-demand fitness platform you consider, look for a robust library of workout and class options that are well organized and easy to navigate for your guests.
3) THINK BEYOND ONE ROOM
Everyone knows on-demand, in-room content is a) wanted by the consumer and b) tricky to deliver for the operator, if not incredibly expensive. Hardware options are endless, time consuming to install room to room, floor to floor and date very quickly. It’s one of the reasons that the hospitality industry has traditionally proven slower than many other service categories to embrace more forms of on-demand content delivery. As we move into 2022, the hardware hurdle is ending. The latest on-demand fitness platforms are hardware agnostic, simply because they don’t require any install. With more than 300 million Americans (90 percent of the population) owning a smart phone, delivery of in-hotel content has become much simpler. Guests can simply receive a QR code at check in from some systems that allow instant access to an on-demand fitness platform anywhere in the hotel for the duration of their stay. Access requires no personnel involvement from the hotel and no maintenance. In this way, guests can call up fitness content on their phone or tablet or even screen share it if they choose to an in-room TV. Of course, they could also choose to take their phone to the hotel club and access a bike, treadmill or other equipment-based guided classes.
4) SEIZE COMMUNITY BUILDING OPPORTUNITY
Virtual fitness experiences in the hospitality category are easy to scale. Rolling out on-demand library access to a small number of properties or across a brand, chain or hotel group is identical. As you consider this, look for easy ways to build virtual communities between guests and properties. Market a monthly virtual fitness challenge through hotel e-blasts, include content in your website and social channels themed for maximum guest engagement: a stationary bike class during the Tour de France, for instance, or a virtual-instructor-led treadmill workout in the run up to marathon season. Include class excerpts and demos in all digital guest vehicles.
5) STAY CURRENT, UPDATED AND EVOLVE WITH GUEST NEEDS
The fitness space moves very quickly – and guests as consumers react to that. Whichever fitness system you choose, there are three key content elements to look for. First, global reach is essential for worldwide hospitality brands. Does your fitness portfolio include classes, content and instructors from around the world. Europe drives a lot of the fitness trends, so ensure your content base is appropriately global. Second, is it easy to access and navigate? Guests don’t have much time or patience when traveling. If they’re trying to squeeze in a 30 minute workout before they leave for a meeting, or a wind down after a client dinner, content access should be a simple click on their phone or tablet. Third, is it fun? Is there content for every taste and every guest? A late night stretch or a 6:00 AM yoga session as the sun comes up in a guest’s room is just as important to offer as a heart-pumping 60 minute session you can take to the hotel gym on your phone.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrew Evenson is senior director, operations and brand strategy, FitnessOnDemand. He can be reached at [email protected]