News Analysis: Trends in hotel fitness

The hospitality industry is taking fitness offerings to the next level; we explore the changing trends

Fairmont The Palm offers full moon beach yoga classes.
Fairmont The Palm offers full moon beach yoga classes.

Hotels have been making major changes to their gyms in the last five years. From Bulgari Hotel London’s new natural movement classes to the Ritz Paris’ 30-day heath programme, Un Mois Rien Que Pour Moi, to the Westin launching in-room spin classes in its US hotels, operators are increasingly taking their fitness offerings more seriously.

Hotel gyms these days are state-of-the-art, spacious rooms that often span an entire floor — a stark change from the hotel gyms of old that were once crammed into dingy, basement spaces. Some guests even choose their hotels when travelling, according to the various fitness options they offer, revealed a recent poll. According to Quartz, more than 780 hotel guests staying at 33 properties run by major hotel companies were asked about various hotel amenities before and after their stay, including on-site fitness centres. Nearly half of the respondents — 46% — said they planned to use the gym at some point during their stay, however, less than one-quarter — 22% — actually used the facilities. The findings mirror the Hotelier Middle East poll that found that 24% of respondents consider hotel gyms an important factor when booking a stay.

Agreeing, Fairmont the Palm director of marketing and communications Katerina Dixon said that hotel fitness has significantly evolved in the region. “At Fairmont, recreation, wellness and fitness activities are a huge element for our customers and to our brand,” Dixon said. “We have a strong wellness and lifestyle approach and therefore positively encourage such activities throughout the duration of guest stays.”

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The MENA region is seeing a massive growth in the wellbeing sector, and to capitalise on the growth, Fairmont The Palm has unveiled a comprehensive active wellness programme in the UAE,  focusing around five key pillars to support the ‘Be. Your. Best.’ concept. “The number of visitors and guests who value these facilities has significantly grown over the last few years, and we have tailored our facilities to grow in line with the increase of demand and interest from guests,” Dixon noted.

Fairmont isn’t the only hotel to make changes to its fitness space. Le Méridien, for example, recently announced plans to roll out new fitness centre designs across more than 100 branded properties by the end of 2017.

“Hotel fitness must reflect the fitness industry. On the physical side this means emphasising the importance of sleep (recovery), nutrition (fuel) and exercise, in that order. This requires a holistic approach biased towards health rather than fitness and requires a synergy between the core business of hospitality and ‘the gym’,” commented David Labouchere, managing partner of OptimalFitness at Natural Elements, Le Méridien Dubai Hotel + Conference Centre.

Le Méridien Dubai Hotel’s OptimalFitness at Natural Elements is tailored around the belief that guests want less traditional fitness offerings like pure cardio and strength, and more functional workouts that emphasise balance, power and endurance.

“We have responded to the needs of our guests by not just keeping abreast of the health and fitness industry best practices, but by partnering with the very best suppliers to deliver service above and beyond expectation.

“As our guests become increasingly health conscious, our fitness facilities can no longer be an afterthought,” Labourchere added.

Now, most hotels have wellness as an integral part of their hospitality package. Taj Dubai general manager Ranjit Phillipose disclosed during an interview with Hotelier Middle East at the 2017 Arabian Travel Market that in every Taj hotel, “we will feature yoga as a wellness offering, either during sunrise or sunset, which is complimentary”.

Everyone Hotelier Middle East spoke to commented on fitness facilities needing to be at the forefront of hotel planning, with activities tailored to guests. This is in line with the new kind of traveller who wants to be able to continue their fitness routine while travelling. Guests now expect to find even more exciting facilities and equipment than they may be used to at home. From yoga to crossfit, hotel fitness offerings are diversifying with the needs of their customers.Fairmont has a 360-degree appr

oach at the resort to fitness and wellness. Its offerings include fitness innovations such as Pavigym, (an interactive LED flooring system allowing guests to build a bespoke, individual workout), AquaSpin — bikes submerged under water — and a resident yoga instructor for group or individual classes. The property also runs ‘Fairmont Fit, a global Fairmont programme’ which provides guests with Reebok active wear in their rooms, personalised workouts and mapped runs within the local area, as well as The Chef’s Palette by Gaggenau; an immersive, interactive cooking experience for diners seeking to consciously create dishes with wellness in mind.

The Dubai hotel also offers full moon yoga with the backdrop of the Dubai Marina skyline in addition to a new wellness programme called ‘State of One’, which incorporates meditation with spa treatments.

“Long gone are the days when a hotel could put a treadmill and a few weights in a room and satisfy guests’ needs. Hotels now compete for the shiniest performance facilities that rival independent standalone gyms and can pull local memberships,” commented director of spa & recreation, Al Habtoor City Hotel Collection Amanda Schmiege.

The term used for it, Schmiege told us, is now known as “sportspitality”.

For example, The Westin Dubai, Al Habtoor City has a diverse range of fitness offerings, in which wellness is crucial part of its brand identity. The hotel offers the WestinWorkout Fitness Studio — a high specification wellness gym that is available to in-house and external guests’ 24-hours a day and features state-of-the-art equipment from Technogym.

“Guests can take advantage of classes tailored to them, ranging from yoga, pilates, core, crossfit and stretch as well as private training rooms for individuals or females for privacy,” said Schmiege.

In a competitive hospitality market, Schmiege added: “the gym itself is a basic necessity and requirement to a hotel guest, which ultimately helps to enhance the hotel, overall rates and guest satisfaction but leaves little open for generating revenue.”

Hotels like Fairmont the Palm are now even collaborating with third party fitness providers and apps. With these, the property extends these fitness offerings to the local community, through partnerships with GuavaPass, Classport, Facecard, ClubExec and Privilee, which allow members exclusive access with a host of guest benefits.

“Partnering with such brands ultimately generates revenue for the hotel as it’s another angle to reach our target audience. Platforms such as GuavaPass and Classport allow our classes to be made accessible to those who may not have been aware of them before. In addition to this, the idea of local residents visiting our property via third party partnerships allows for the opportunity for that person to spend money elsewhere at the resort, whether this be lunch after a fitness class, or a spa treatment to end a relaxing day by the beach which in turn generates additional revenue,” Dixon added.

According to Schmiege, partnerships with branded classes and celebrity trainers who need space and an audience are examples of how hotels can tap into lucrative opportunities to make money.

“These fitness offerings are a revenue generating opportunity for the hotel as well,” Schmiege said.

In the next few weeks, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is joining the action with the launch of #MoveThisRamadan — an initiative encompassing 15 Four Seasons locations across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Istanbul and Jakarta. Each property will host weekly wellness activities led by a resident fitness expert, open to both local communities and hotel guests. From jogging to yoga, stretching and strolls — the choice of fitness sessions has been carefully designed taking into consideration local climates and activity levels that are appropriate when fasting.

While it remains to be seen what effect the changes in hotel fitness offerings will bring to the industry as a whole, it seems certain that exercise-minded guests will never again be short on options, and that hotels would be well advised to adjust their offerings accordingly.

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