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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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.