Skift Take

New year, new you — at least that's what a lot of us are telling ourselves this week now that the holidays are over, and so are our days of gluttony (or so we believe). And since we're all collectively tackling that perennial New Year's resolution to get healthier, now is as good a time as any to take a closer look at how hotel fitness and wellness is evolving.

Hotel fitness centers and wellness offerings have come a long way.

Once occupying dingy, windowless basement spaces some now take up entire floors and, in some cases, some hotel companies have even built entire brands around them, like InterContinental Hotels Group, EVEN Hotels, for example. Or other established fitness brands such as Equinox, have decided to test their mettle by stepping into the hotel business.

Fitness, and the larger interest in overall wellness, is a big business these days. In 2015, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), the global health club industry alone generated $81 billion in revenue, with 151.5 million members and nearly 187,000 clubs. Fitness and wellness have become a true lifestyle, as evidenced by the popularity of athleisure in retail and fashion, as well as the incredible growth of popular boutique fitness studios like SoulCycle, Physique 57, CorePower Yoga, and many others. SoulCycle estimated it would bring in revenues of more than $150 million in 2016 alone.

Good health, in many ways, has become a new sort of status symbol, too, and luxury hotel brands, in particular, have also taken note, as noted by Six Senses’ example.

But hospitality fitness and wellness innovations aren’t limited to just luxury brands, as we’ve seen before. The Westin Hotels brand is a prime example of a more mainstream brand that’s used wellness as a crucial part of its brand identity, and those efforts continue today.

Brian Povinelli, SVP and Global Brand Leader for Westin, Le Meridien, Renaissance, Autograph, Tribute & Design Hotels, said, “The hotel gym has evolved long way over the last 20 years. Westin puts an emphasis on big bright spaces and 24-hour access so people can work out when they want and how they want with the right equipment. And everything has to take a holistic view of our six pillars of wellbeing.”

“Five or 10 years ago that fitness center was one of those things you had to have but it was underutilized,” said Kate Ashton, SVP of brand operations for Wyndham, TRYP and Dolce Hotels. “The trend we see is that not only is it being used, but we have to be very cognizant of the number of people that are using it. We need to make the fitness centers larger, more spacious, and more inviting. They need to have windows as opposed to being in a dark basement. You could call [the hotel fitness center] an amenity but it’s almost like Wi-Fi. I think that it will only grow. Healthful alternatives on the food-and-beverage side also need to be reflective of that healthful lifestyle, as people become more knowledgeable about how nutrition and exercise, when combined, can lengthen our lifetimes. Hotel fitness will become less of an amenity and more of a must have.”

Povinelli also noted, “Seventy-five percent of Millennials say health and fitness is one of the most important things their lives.”

In the past few years, many brands, Westin included, have begun investing heavily into their hotel fitness facilities and programming too, whether adding CrossFit-type equipment, offering free running maps and bicycle rentals, establishing gear lending programs, holding group yoga classes, offering on-demand meditation exercises, partnering with fitness tracking devices like FitBit, or hiring running concierges, for example.

Some hotels, like select Marriott properties and the MGM Grand Las Vegas, have also partnered with Delos to offer a number of Stay Well guest rooms that have such features as specially filtered water, advanced air purification systems, and even Vitamin C-infused showers.

This year, expect those aforementioned trends to continue as well as a few more overarching ones, including more on-demand fitness offerings, more group opportunities, and more partnerships with established fitness brands.

Skift spoke to Westin’s Povinelli and Wyndham’s Ashton, to learn more about some of the innovations in hotel fitness they are working on for their respective brands.

On-Demand Fitness

The ability to work out anywhere and everywhere on demand is increasingly becoming more of a reality at a number of hotel properties.

At the Charlotte City Marriott, also known as the Marriott M Beta Hotel, the hotel not only offers a number of Stay Well rooms but also has a state-of-the-art Flex fitness center that makes it easy for guests to select their workout regimens of choice from nearly 1,000 different digital training classes (yoga, spin, cardio, etc.). Guests can choose to work out alone in one of two enclaves within the gym, or have other guests join them, too.

Ashton said Wyndham’s Wyndham Grand, Wyndham, and Wyndham Garden brands are looking into developing on-demand video screens in their hotels’ fitness centers and guest rooms and that the company is working with a streaming Wi-Fi provider to see how it can provide on-demand stationary bike workouts to guests.

“It has yet to be determined how it will branded but we would like it to be a selection of workouts and to work like Chromecast so that whatever is on your device or your iPad or phone you will be able to cast onto the TV,” Ashton explained. “We’re still in the very early stages of that, to create that personalization of your workout.

Some of the equipment inside the Charlotte City Marriott Flex center can also be synced to various fitness apps, which is a feature you can find at Westin and Element hotels now, too.

Element partnered with the Your Trainer app to offer exclusive 10- to 12-minute workouts — a circuit training course, a yoga session, and a strength routine — for guests. When a guest checks in to the hotel, she is given a three-digit code to set up a profile with the Your Trainer app and have access to the workouts.

Westin’s FitStar by FitBit partnership also gives guests access to different workouts through the FitStar personal trainer app, like travel-specific ones designed to combat jetlag or exercise in between meetings.

“Whether you do the workouts in the hotel or want to do them before, during, or after your stay we give access to guests in that platform, so we’re broadening opportunities from just the gym to the guest room and both pre- and post- stay,” said Povinelli.

The Tribe Mentality

And as hotels continue capitalizing on the “co-everything” trend, it’s also no surprise that they are upping the variety of group workout activities available for guests.

Povinelli said that Westin’s more than 200 running concierges worldwide are now doing evening runs in addition to morning group runs because they noticed more travelers, especially business travelers, wanting another opportunity for networking that wasn’t just limited to hitting the bar. “More people are getting together in a social way but to conduct more loose business meetings in a workout type of environment — we call it sweatworking,” he said.

And at some hotels, the concierge program isn’t just limited to running but also applies to surfing, skiing, and any kind of activity that gets guests outside of the hotel and into a more social fitness environment.

More Brand Partnerships Are on the Way

While many hotel brands have partnerships with specific brands for fitness equipment or gear lending, expect even more partnerships to flourish among hotels and boutique fitness brands like, perhaps, Peloton, which just debuted a new commercial-grade stationary bike that can be used in hotels.

“With this proliferation of technology and more unique ways for people to work out, like the November Project or SoulCycle, we’re able to redefine the hotel workout even more than ever before,” said Povinelli.

And with all of these new features and opportunities becoming more readily available, expect there to be less opportunity for any excuses getting in the way of guests’ workouts.

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Tags: element, fitness, marriott, westin, wyndham

Photo credit: Westin partnered with FitBit to enable guests to have special access to on-demand workouts via the FitBit FitStar mobile app. Evi Abeler Photography / Westin Hotels & Resorts

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