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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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.