Mr. Green

Spas, Health & Wellness

Managing Hygiene in Hospitality Based Fitness Centers

By Bryan Green, Founder & CEO, Advantage Fitness Products

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.

The best defense is good facility hygiene. Helping to remind guests to keep their hands clean, use a barrier like clothing or towels between them and any shared surfaces (like gym equipment) and shower immediately after activities that involve direct skin contact with others.

Disinfecting and Cleaning the Fitness Amenity

The specific challenge with the fitness facility is that common disinfectants and cleaning agents de-activate within as quickly as one hour after application, thereby leaving surfaces un-protected over 90% of the time in the absence of constant reapplication. As a general strategy, hand washing, personal bathing, and the wiping down of sweat should be a reminder to guests. Subtle but important signage must be created to reinforce these messages in fitness and indoor pool areas. Awareness is critical for facility participants, and not calling attention to this important health concern is by no means a strategy.

As a general rule, the hotel should triple up on its "general" cleaning and disinfecting procedures for the fitness area. Typically these areas are not large in comparison to lobby or conference facilities. However, scheduling more frequent inspections and attention will serve to keep both the facility clean as well as to visual demonstrate to guests that you have a strong commitment to this aspect of their care.

Planning For a Healthy Fitness Facility

Effective room design and planning are important in helping you more easily overcome the future challenges of operating a clean and health facility. The key is to allow for the facility to appear and remain germ free for longer intervals in between cleaning. When designing a new space or re-fitting an existing one, take steps to insure the facility remains easy to clean and engage your guests in keeping it that way. One of the most important steps to keeping a fitness center looking and smelling clean revolves around its floor coverings. It is highly recommended both for functional as well as hygienic perspective to utilize rubber flooring. Rubber is easily cleaned with powerful disinfectants and allows for a much quicker removal of sweat after guest use. Carpet is less functional, wears more quickly, and can become a haven for mildew and other bacteria to accumulate.

Ventilation systems are also an important aspect of the facility. Insure that HVAC systems have been designed specifically around the often moist and constricted airflow space that is fitness. Frequent replenishment of fresh air vs. recirculation is critical. Open windows or gain airflow naturally from the outside whenever possible.

Another basic but design oriented measure is to include a wash basis within the facility itself or adjacent via an easily accessible restroom. This will help to encourage and facilitate the frequent washing of hands before and after facility use. This single addition may increase the cleanliness of your facility by over 90%.

Give Your Guests Peace of Mind

It is also important to provide guests with other hygiene friendly tools that will help them feel empowered to participate in keeping themselves safe and the facility clean. Disaffecting Equipment Wipes are one of the most common and visually obvious items that can be made available via wall mounted or free standing dispensers. It's important to select wipes that have been specifically formulated for the gym environment as they must be alcohol free to be used directly on fitness center equipment. Hand sanitizer dispensers that today are more generally found in all types of public areas are also encouraged.

Where possible, towel service is an excellent way to further encourage the wiping down of facility equipment after use. It suggests to guests that you understand their interest in placing a barrier between themselves and the last slew of users that might have worked out prior to the next visit from housekeeping. Towel sizes are commonly available today fabricated specifically for the type of use in fitness center, and do not need to be plush, nor oversized to be effective.

New Technology

With the emergence of "superbugs" and other scary contaminants, a handful of products have begun to reach the market that produce a residual effectiveness against these villains. However, several are methanol based and require that after each facility treatment, guests must be evacuated for 4-6 hours. This is obviously not always practical for the hospitality space. One manufacturer, Goldshield Med.LLC, has tested their water based formulary in leading hospitals worldwide and claims that in addition to its residual effectiveness, it provides a long term prophylactic protection. They recommend the use of their product for all fitness facility applications including schools, professional sports teams, and public fitness centers. Typically facilities must be treated one per month at a cost of approximately $1 per sq.ft. for smaller, hotel based areas. Facilities gain certification thus providing an ever greater level of demonstrated care and peace of mind for their visitors.

It is clear that no matter what the size of your fitness center, a commitment to a clean and hygienic facility is not optional. Through a series of steps and ongoing care, the hotel can effectively plan for the conditions that should be anticipated in a fitness center. Frequent cleaning and disinfection remain key. Providing guests with disposable measures such as wipes and hand sanitizer are simple but effective measures to extend awareness and eliminate germs at the root of their origin. Ultimately, creating awareness and visibility around your commitments here will enhance the perception you deliver to your guests and demonstrate your care for them in yet another very important way.

Bryan Green is a wellness industry entrepreneur and fitness facility design expert. He has overseen the development of training facilities for Fortune 100 companies, global hospitality flags, health clubs, specialty studios, universities, and professional sports teams. Mr. Green founded Advantage Fitness Products (AFP) in 1997 to meet the growing demand for consultative support and supply of non-traditional wellness facilities beyond the larger health club chains. Mr. Green established FitnessDesignGroup® in 2001 to serve as a specialized consultancy for early stage planning and design for commercial fitness facilities of all types. The company has since evolved to provide project management services, and today foundationally supports both AFP and the Aktiv Solution divisions towards their client facility design requirements. Mr. Green can be contacted at 310-559-9949 Ext: 110 or bgreen@afproducts.com Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
General Search:

OCTOBER: Revenue Management: Technology and Big Data

Steve  Van

Do you have a catering assistant whose first question each morning is Did we sell out? or What was our occupancy and ADR last night? What about a front office associate who is so hungry to earn the perfect sell incentive that every time she works the 3:00 to 11:00 shift and the hotel has just a few rooms left to sell, you can count on the fact that you are going to end up with a perfect sell? If so, you may have just found your next revenue manager! READ MORE

Will Song

Airbnb is less than a decade old, but it has already begun to make waves in the travel industry. The online marketplace where individuals can list their apartments or rooms for guests to book has been able to secure a surprisingly stable foothold for itself. This has caused some hoteliers to worry that there’s a new competitor in the market with the potential to not only take away market share but drive prices down lower than ever. Let’s take a closer look at how Airbnb fits into the industry right now and then walk through the steps of the ways your hotel revenue management strategy can be adapted to the age of Airbnb. READ MORE

Brian Bolf

Revenue management tends to be one of the most challenging hospitality disciplines to define, particularly due to the constant evolution of technology. Advancements in data processing, information technology, and artificial intelligence provide our industry with expanded opportunities to reach, connect, and learn from our guests. Ultimately, the primary goals of revenue management remain constant as the ever-evolving hospitality industry matures. We must keep these fundamentals top of mind, while proactively planning for the tighter targets that lay ahead. That said, how can we embrace these innovations, operate under constricted parameters, and learn from the practices used today to achieve our same goals moving forward? READ MORE

Sanjay  Nagalia

Every year, it seems as though the hospitality industry faces more competition, new opportunities to leverage their data, and difficult organizational challenges to overcome to remain competitive in a hypercompetitive marketplace. The popularity of the sharing economy, dominating OTAs and a growing generation of often-puzzling consumers all give pause to hotels as they strategize for a more profitable future. Hotels have been feeling the heat from OTA competition for several years, causing many organizations to double down on their efforts to drive more direct bookings. Revamped loyalty programs, refined marketing campaigns and improvements to brand websites have all become primary focuses for hotel brands looking to turn the tables on their online competition. READ MORE

Coming Up In The November Online Hotel Business Review

Feature Focus
Architecture & Design: Authentic, Interactive and Immersive
If there is one dominant trend in the field of hotel architecture and design, it’s that travelers are demanding authentic, immersive and interactive experiences. This is especially true for Millennials but Baby Boomers are seeking out meaningful experiences as well. As a result, the development of immersive travel experiences - winery resorts, culinary resorts, resorts geared toward specific sports enthusiasts - will continue to expand. Another kind of immersive experience is an urban resort – one that provides all the elements you'd expect in a luxury resort, but urbanized. The urban resort hotel is designed as a staging area where the city itself provides all the amenities, and the hotel functions as a kind of sophisticated concierge service. Another trend is a re-thinking of the hotel lobby, which has evolved into an active social hub with flexible spaces for work and play, featuring cafe?s, bars, libraries, computer stations, game rooms, and more. The goal is to make this area as interactive as possible and to bring people together, making the space less of a traditional hotel lobby and more of a contemporary gathering place. This emphasis on the lobby has also had an associated effect on the size of hotel rooms – they are getting smaller. Since most activities are designed to take place in the lobby, there is less time spent in rooms which justifies their smaller design. Finally, the wellness and ecology movements are also having a major impact on design. The industry is actively adopting standards so that new structures are not only environmentally sustainable, but also promote optimum health and well- being for the travelers who will inhabit them. These are a few of the current trends in the fields of hotel architecture and design that will be examined in the November issue of the Hotel Business Review.