Unique fitness and wellness offerings like group classes can yield high ROI for hotels.
Hotel operators and franchisors have long known that up-to-date fitness facilities are a critical draw for business and leisure travelers.
But as customer trends and demands change, distinctive fitness and wellness offerings can be a great way for hotel developers and operators to innovate and break away from the pack of similar class and style hotels. In the same way, hotels can elevate their social following, drive revenue per available room and even generate ancillary revenues.
In recent years, more and more properties and brands have made fitness and wellness a key component of their brands’ DNA and marketing efforts. Yet, with the exception of a few properties that have developed gym and spa facilities on a sufficiently large scale to permit membership or other paid use by locals, return on fitness investments is usually limited to use by transient guests. However, a new trend of group fitness experiences in or associated with hotels is changing the rules of the game and offering a dual opportunity: providing transient guests the chance to continue with the type of group-based fitness experiences that are a key part of their routines at home, while also driving local traffic into the property to participate in (and pay for) that programming.
Most guests who are looking to work out on the road are prepared for a routine with the standard equipment found in typical hotel gyms: cardio on a treadmill/elliptical/bike, some strength training with the set of 5- to 50-pound dumbbells or a cable machine and an ab workout on a ball or mat. But for many, this kind of solitary workout marks a departure from the group fitness they’re accustomed to at home. According to the International Health, Racquet & Fitness Association, 42% of the fitness industry’s overall revenues come from boutique group fitness studios (e.g. yoga, high-intensity training, spinning, boot camps or barre). The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association published a study showing lower levels of stress and higher levels of physical, mental and emotional health in adults who participate in group classes. What’s more, according to MMGY Global, nearly half of millennials and over a third of Gen Xers indicate that premium fitness facilities and the availability of on-site or off-site group fitness classes would influence their choice for a hotel stay. Data from the Nielsen Global Consumer Exercise Trends survey also shows that group fitness classes are most popular among female and younger audiences—key demographics that hoteliers often try to target.
So, why do people love group fitness?
- Accountability: Being in a group is motivating and helps push us along—and not get distracted by our phones!
- Being alone together: Participating in an activity on our own without being completely alone helps make gym time fly. In a hotel, this correlates to the idea of “sitting at the bar” for dinner.
- It’s more than just a workout: A group class is positive and socially engaging time. In a hotel, many travelers like meeting locals and having unique experiences.
- Form and performance: Classes help us improve and learn new things. Additional sets of eyes and positive reinforcement can help us get to our best selves.
Of course, developing a group fitness program isn’t as easy as flipping a switch, but it’s also not as daunting as it may sound. These simple ideas can get you started:
- Identify local trainers and invite them to host their clients in the hotel gym or common space while also offering classes to guests.
- Develop employee culture/well-being programs, including designating a well-being champion who has a primary role in the operation but has a secondary role as the wellness champion for both team members and guests. Is someone on staff already a certified trainer or passionate about wellness? This could be a career development opportunity. Give that person a small budget and ask them to champion partnerships, program creation and suggestions for marketing strategies.
- Partner with a small local studio, business or event with services that would be valuable to your target guests. Go one step further than making a recommendation and create value-added experiences at the hotel, coupled with participation in the class. Keep it simple to execute! A sweaty hot yoga session off-site could be followed up by a signature revitalizing mocktail on arrival back at the hotel.
- Make it a marketing and PR challenge. Develop a local package—or create a truly unique class—that makes your hotel stand out. Think of it like a rooftop bar or other key amenity that draws guests to your hotel.
- Find a local fitness or well-being influencer, reach out through social channels and invite them to help curate the content and programming in return for a stay and marketing to their followers what they’ve helped develop.
- Work with local partners to create a curated package of classes—perhaps at discounted rates that are lower than what would otherwise be available—that guests can add to their reservation at the time of booking.
- For larger properties with a budget to support creating a wellness space or adding technology, or hotels part of a mixed-use development with secondary demand beyond guests, consider a tech-supported solution such as fitness on demand. Coupling high-quality programming alongside great AV is a path for entering the group class space without having to focus on staffing and management.
There’s no question that a large segment of the population wants to work out in a group setting. Most hotels don’t give guests that opportunity today—yet they have the space, staff and service experience to do so. That’s why developing group fitness programming is a hospitality innovation on the horizon. It’s a great way to drive rate from transient guests and bring paying locals in to participate in classes and patronize other revenue-generating aspects of a property.
Adam Glickman is the principal of Parallax Hospitality, a trusted partner in bringing memorable hospitality brand concepts to life. With over 20 years in the hospitality industry, he has a passion for creating premium, distinctive and wellness-forward brand concepts and helping non-hospitality companies navigate the complexities of the hotel industry to form partnerships and grow.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that might be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.