Hotels are fitter than ever. With guests increasingly expecting fitness centers, the percentage of hotels offering such facilities has reached an all-time high, according to AH&LA’s 2012 Lodging Survey. Now, 84 percent of hotels offer some sort of fitness center. And the percentage is even higher for upper midscale and higher-end properties, with 95 percent of these properties providing fitness centers.
Because of this tremendous guest demand, it might be time to rethink your fitness center and take a cue from some recent innovators. “Hotels used to just put the fitness center in whatever space was available in the basement; it was more of an afterthought,” says Lisa Zandee, senior vice president of brand management for Denihan Hospitality Group. “Now, fitness centers have been elevated to an important feature and as a point of entry for guests.”
For example, The James Hotel in New York City’s SoHo district has a fitness center on the 17th floor. “In the past, it would be unheard of to use that kind of prime space in SoHo for a fitness center,” Zandee says. “Guests return to the hotels because of these fitness amenities. For us, it’s a matter of competing and meeting the guests’ expectations. Fitness centers and wellness programs promote guest loyalty.”
Many chains have been riding this upward fitness trend. In the past three years, all of Westin’s fitness centers have been upgraded, giving each a consistent look and design, as well as updating and replacing equipment as needed. “Fitness is a trillion dollar, global industry and an important component to the guest’s stay,” says Robert Jacobs, vice president brand management for Sheraton & Westin North America. “Westin is positioned to provide wellness and well-being on the road.”
And this fitness trend is seen through all levels of service. This past September, Days Inn launched Dayfit, a fitness-related initiative that includes adding more fitness facilities, making current centers more uniform, and increasing healthy breakfast options. Currently, about one-quarter of the chain’s hotels have fitness facilities. Also, the size of each center, quality of machines, and other fitness amenities varied from property to property. With the new program, Days Inn plans to have fitness centers in 70 to 80 percent of the brand’s 1,650 properties, according to Clyde Guinn, president of Days Inn brand for the Wyndham Hotel Group.
In addition to elevating the brand’s image, the Dayfit program aims to boost the bottom line. “Within our star segment, there are 15 brands, so it’s difficult to differentiate yourself,” Guinn says. “Having a fitness center equals a half a point increase in TripAdvisor ratings.” Guinn estimates that, based on rate increases tied to rating increases, the average Days Inn with 86 rooms could see an additional $172,000 in revenue.
Finding the Right Fit
As part of the Dayfit program, Days Inn properties will be offered three options, based on available space. Depending on size, such fitness centers could cost from $9,000 to $18,000. For example, properties with a fitness center of about 220 square feet – which is about as much space in a guestroom without the bathroom removed – can include a treadmill and elliptical. Fitness centers of about 250 to 280 square feet can include a third piece of equipment, such as a stationary bike, second elliptical, or a corner pulley-rack system. Larger fitness centers of about 400 square feet add a fourth piece of aerobic equipment.
In addition to these guidelines, Days Inn tailors fitness centers to specific properties, says Guinn. One example: The downtown Chicago Days Inn has a 700 sq. ft. center and includes six pieces of aerobic equipment along with a corner pulley-rack system along with other equipment.