Managing Hygiene in Hospitality Based Fitness Centers

By Bryan Green Founder & CEO, Advantage Fitness Products | January 30, 2011

One might assume that the fitness center is likely among the healthiest places to be in a hotel or resort…or it could be the least. The virtues of providing your guests with a functional and well balanced fitness facility are plentiful and today well known. However, ensuring the safety of your guests while they use the facility goes beyond the simple maintenance of your fitness equipment.

Today, the threat of wide scale microbial contamination is greater than ever. The gym environment presents a natural breeding ground for these contaminants. Understanding what the risks are, and what can be done to create a hygiene friendly facility will help you comprehensively achieve a most healthy fitness experience for your guests.

What You Need to Know

Bacteria in poorly maintained fitness facilities can spread disease. Antibiotic-resistant staph infections can be picked up from heavily used exercise equipment, stretching mats, and improperly disinfected toilets/locker rooms.

Skin based staph infections, including those caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria, can spread through shared gym equipment, mats and towels. Infections tend to occur near a cut or scrape or body parts that my directly come into contact with infected surfaces. Astoundingly the CDC currently reports that MRSA now kills more people in the USA than AIDS. With 20-30 million Americans visiting fitness facilities of all types multiple times per week, it is incumbent upon operators to re-evaluate their cleaning and personal hygiene protocols.

MRSA is found on people and not naturally found in the environment. It reaches objects and surfaces outside the body if someone touches infected skin or certain areas of the body where these bacteria can live and then touches the object or surface. Another way that items can be contaminated with staph and MRSA is if they have direct contact with a person’s skin infection.

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Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.