Benefits & Challenges of Self-Service Hotel Gyms

By Bryan Green Founder & CEO, Advantage Fitness Products | August 29, 2010

For operators in the hospitality industry, it's critical to gain a solid understanding of the fitness amenity and the specific benefits it may afford your guests. Facility design, layout, and functionality are the foundation for this high demand offering. Exercise is dynamic by definition and therefore the successful establishment of the fitness facility may bring challenges that are a bit unique from other areas of the property. Given the increasing expectations of a well balanced fitness center by your guests, whatever the challenges may be, embracing them is the only option.

Usage rates for hotel/resort fitness centers have increased steadily; in turn increasing the priority that hotel operators are placing on these facilities as a source of both customer satisfaction and retention. Let's review some of the benefits and considerations that can make or break the success of a hospitality-based fitness facility & some of their corresponding challenges:

Spatial Planning

First and foremost, it's critical that the fitness center layout affords enough space to accommodate the volume of end users. This is one of the most common miscalculations made in advance of construction and therefore existing properties must pay crucial attention to the right balance of equipment given these likely constraints. Guests that don't have to wait in line for equipment when short on time for a meeting make for a happy traveler. Whether due to poor availability of data or just inaccurate projections, operators consistently underestimate fitness center usage rates. In reality, due to so many fitness conscious and active-lifestyle consumers, usage rates are typically at anywhere from 15 to 20 percent (roughly one in five guests) at minimum. Typically those figures increase strongly when the property provides an inviting and well balanced offering in fitness. Facility planning needs to anticipate this and accommodate it with the appropriate dimensions and layout. Further, equipment choices must take into account specific exercise demand and the anticipated amount of usage per station. Consulting a fitness facility design and equipment specialist is highly recommended to stay current in terms of both trends and functional and special requirements.

Electrical and Entertainment "Feed" Placement

It's important to anticipate and carefully chart the layout of electrical wiring and feed locations for the fitness center. Tearing up concrete to adjust an electrical layout or creating a tripping hazard with poor wire management are both non-desirable options. This has become an increasingly significant consideration with the rapid growth of fitness entertainment amenities. Guests today expect personal viewing screens for their cardio, and ambient TV or music for their entertainment while strength training or stretching. This also represents an additional marketing opportunities for the property to message many of the services and dining options available during the guest stay. An effective entertainment offering requires direct cable or satellite feeds to each and every treadmill or elliptical trainer that features personal audio or viewing screens. In planning for new development, if budget will be limited for extensive entertainment amenities immediately, customer demand will create the need to upgrade to these features at some point. Don't limit your ability to adjust and make additions in the future. Anticipate and account for this possibility and avoid significant costs and business interruption if and when a decision to upgrade is made down the line.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. 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.