That doesn’t necessarily mean fitness is dead though, unfortunately.
Finally, some proof of what I’ve suspected for years—nobody really uses the hotel gym!
According to recent research on hotel amenities sponsored by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, less than half of hotel guests who said they planned to use the hotel gym during their stay actually did it.
First, let me just say that if you analyze that sentence closely, it gives you so much more than the news peg. Oh yes, this sentence speaks volumes: It says not only that fewer people use the gym, but that it’s fewer people who said they planned to use the gym actually use it.
Yep. This study is calling out those schmucks we all know who love to talk about how they’re going to work out. You know, your co-workers you travel with on business who say at dinner, “Oh, I’m going to go hit the hotel gym after eating this huge meal,” usually with a self-satisfied smirk on their faces.
Nope. According to this study, those are the people who in reality are just going back to their room and switching on Netflix. Well, the research doesn’t prove that; I’m just making a qualified hypothesis, but hey, maybe some Cornell students are looking for a graduate thesis idea.
Of course, the real news here is that whether they’ve said they plan to use it or not, it seems that perhaps fewer people really do use the hotel gym than anticipated.
That can be a real problem when owners have invested lots of cash into high-end equipment. As hotel owners know very well, fitness equipment is an investment that doesn’t tend to give back in terms of revenue—it’s not like those fancy elliptical machines and treadmills are coin-operated (though there’s a revenue-generating idea for you: Want to boost your workout to a 10% incline? Please swipe your keycard and we’ll charge you $5!).
So there’s a bit of a conflict here: Fewer people are using hotel fitness rooms, while at the same time we hear more and more about how travelers are much more wellness-oriented than they’ve been in the past.
Sure, there are plenty of business travelers like me who loathe the idea of running into colleagues—or having colleagues run into us—around the hotel or in the elevator, all sweaty from the gym, so we avoid it completely.
But many travelers I think still are committed to fitness, just not necessarily in the gym.
My take is that fitness isn’t going away—but it’s changing, potentially in a big way, and hotels are going to have to adapt in order to create fitness options that appeal to guests in ways that don’t drain their purchasing budget (and contribute to major amenity creep).
The key will be offering options, and that doesn’t just mean options for what equipment is in your standard fitness room. Nope, like everything else in the hotel, from F&B to in-room technology, guests today want options and that extends to their workouts. Some may want a standard fitness room, but others will want in-room yoga videos, in-room weight equipment, maps for safe running trails in the neighborhood, or recommendations for (and transportation to) local gyms where they might already have a reciprocal membership (Hello Planet Fitness franchise memberships!)
And yes, millennials likely will drive some of these changes—millennials who likely are looking for more than just a treadmill (even if it is a fancy one) when it comes to their workouts (check out “Why you won’t find millennials doing aerobics: The new wave of health and fitness”).
It’s great to see lots of hotels and brands already adopting more flexible fitness and wellness options. Even Hotels, Omni Hotels & Resorts, Tryp by Wyndham, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and more have tried these programs through the years. Many partner with local or national vendors to create custom offerings—a quick Google search will yield lots of examples.
This is where hotel fitness is heading, mark my words, and this Cornell study just reinforces it.
It can be tough for hotel brands to adapt to change when it comes to brand standards, but my gut tells me—and yes, I do have a bit of a gut, probably because I don’t work out when I travel—that this will be the next big area of change hoteliers will need to adapt to. Like technology shifts, these can be pricey changes to keep up with, so now’s the time to think about them.
Is your hotel doing anything innovative (and cost-saving or revenue-generating) when it comes to fitness options? Let me know what you think in the comments below, email me at email@example.com or find me on Twitter @HNN_Steph.
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