For Even Hotels, the marathon is complete. InterContinental Hotels Group’s first two much-anticipated wellness-centric properties, announced in 2013, opened in June.
“I’m excited and relieved,” says Kirk Kinsell, IHG’s president of the Americas.
Even Hotels belongs to a growing group of properties fully embracing fit guests, people who yearn to keep their exercise routine intact while traveling through high-level gym equipment, unique programs, and a knowledgeable staff to tie it all together.
“The key thing about Even Hotels that differentiates itself is the holistic nature of it and the mainstream price point,” Kinsell says. “We recognize that people want to be active. We can facilitate that in a variety of ways, either in their room or in a facility in the hotel or introduce them to other amenities or services in their local community.”
The Norwalk, Conn., and Rockville, Md., locations represent the culmination of six different qualitative and quantitative studies, with approximately 4,000 interviews conducted, says Adam Glickman, head of Even Hotels. Through extensive research, among other things, they wanted to see what makes people fall off the wagon with fitness and what does exercise mean on the road versus at home, he says. The answers that kept bubbling up showed that guests often struggle to maintain a fitness routine while staying at hotels.
“Keeping people on their wellness journey was key,” says Glickman, who explains that the meaning of wellness varies from person to person. “It’s not one size fits all.” As a result, Even Hotels developed four brand components: eating well, resting easy, accomplishing more, and keeping active.
They tackled the last pillar in several capacities. First, they developed the Even Hotels Athletic Studio, which Glickman says is about 3.5 times the size of the standard gym in an upscale, select service hotel. Featuring three zones (core, cardio, and strength), it offers professional-sports-level equipment, such as treadmills, ellipticals, and spinning bikes. For guests looking to leave the hotel to exercise, the staff has been trained to guide them to the nearest hot yoga class, Olympic-size pool, or any other athletic activity.
And, understanding that some people may not feel comfortable training inside the gym, Even Hotels has developed an in-room training program. Each guestroom comes with a designated cork flooring area for a little extra bounce and an equipment kit, with a stretch pole, yoga mat and block, ab exercise ball, and a set of bands. Here, guests can watch instructional videos led by a trainer on a tablet or smartphone.
Finally, Even Hotels acknowledges that keeping active doesn’t have to be a traditional exercise routine, Glickman says. The guests who want to use the stairs end up in the lobby, not in some ominous storage room, and the VIP parking spots are the farthest from the front door to let people get in an extra walk.
“We want to change the way people think about hotels,” he says.
Setting the Pace
For more than a decade, Westin Hotels and Resorts has put guest wellness and fitness at the forefront, says Brian Povinelli, Westin’s global brand leader. For example, RunWestin—the brand’s signature running program—provides an alternative to “the drudgery of a gym workout.”
Many of its properties offer a designated RunWestin running concierge who leads scenic runs throughout the area and tours city landmarks. Last year, Westin hired a traveling resident running concierge, Chris Heuisler, a veteran of 25 marathons.
“Chris acts as a personal marathon coach for guests, engaging with runners and sharing in-depth knowledge of marathon running and training to improve performance,” Povinelli says.
Inside the hotel, in addition to the fitness studios, guests have the option to book WestinWorkout rooms—guestrooms equipped with a treadmill or stationary bike, dumbbells, fitness DVDs, resistance bands, and stability balls.
Also, for $5, guests can participate in a gear-lending program to borrow running shoes with disposable insoles, as well as a variety of apparel, such as shorts, shirts, and socks for men and shorts, capri pants, shirts, sports bras, and socks for women. “Westin hosts a lot of business travelers, and this program allows those guests to travel lighter without having to pack bulky workout gear,” he says.
Lastly, Westin has partnered with the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series for VIP marathon packages around the races. Features include complimentary pasta dinner; expedited bib pickup and waiver processing at the race expo; a RunWestin concierge-led warm-up run and race route preview; grab-and-go breakfast on the race morning; late checkout on race day; and access to the VIP recovery tent.
“The entire Westin experience is designed to make guests feel better than when they arrived,” Povinelli says.
A Helping Hand
In December 2013, The Benjamin in New York City knocked down some walls and expanded its fitness center. The extra room allows space for yoga and additional equipment, including more bars, bands, medicine balls, and higher-end ellipticals and treadmills. In addition, the boutique hotel added a small lounge off the fitness center for people to take a break or have a snack, and it beefed up Internet connectivity so guests can better tweet while training. “We wanted it to be more like a gym you would see in New York,” says Cole Hernandez, director of marketing for Denihan Hospitality Group.
They also understood some people might need a gentle nudge to exercise, especially if they’re from out of town, and not all guests want to work out inside the hotel. “You want to make every part of their experience in Manhattan memorable,” says Vanessa Martin, founder and CEO of SIN Workouts. “I’m a firm believer that fitness can do that.”
Martin and Hernandez met at a fitness event last year, and they immediately hit it off. The two realized that the boutique hotel market would be a perfect fit for SIN (short for Strength in Numbers), which also caters to corporate and residential clients. These travelers may need guidance on where to work out, and they often have more disposable income.
The Benjamin offers two levels of SIN Workout sessions, the Sinner ($75) and Sinner Elite ($175). Both services include a full consultation with a SIN fitness concierge and one workout. With the Elite option, a SIN staff member meets guests at their workout—from spin to boot camp to yoga—and takes the class with them.
“Boutique fitness classes can be confusing,” Martin says. “There’s a lot of commotion when classes change over. If you’re a novice, it’s daunting and overwhelming, and right from the get-go, it’s not a pleasurable experience. We work to eliminate all that stress. We have their bottle of water, towel, and spin bike ready, and they will walk in with a normal resting heartbeat.”
For more price-conscious customers who opt for the Sinner option, they still get the motivation even if the SIN staff isn’t there in person. Guests will receive wake-up calls, texts, or emails, and SIN collects feedback from the instructor.
“If you’re staying again at the hotel, you won’t remember the name of the spin instructor you loved from six months ago,” Martin says. “But we would have that information on file for you, so when you come back, you’re ready to go.”