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The pandemic has shifted the industry’s focus from fitness to wellness — which means reimagining investments in spaces like the hotel gym, and shared equipment.

Six feet may have been the figure heard ‘round the world two years ago, but these days when it comes to hotel fitness, the magic number is five.

Interest in Hilton’s Five Feet to Fitnes program is higher than ever before, notes Gary Steffen, senior vice president and global head of full service brands. Gone are the days where guests have to roll out a bath towel and maneuver around a coffee table to squeeze in some crunches. Hilton’s offering (currently in 30 hotels across six states) includes 11 pieces of fitness equipment and other gym accessories into a guest’s private space. They can then sweat to 200 recorded workouts  — including indoor cycling and TRX — in just 60 inches of space, the distance for which the program gets its name.

While the hotel gym isn’t going away any time soon, the fitness experience has been reimagined and will continue to evolve, said Steffan. Across the industry, that includes how much square footage is dedicated to new build-outs, or perhaps even whether to have a gym at all. Properties like Wild Rice Retreat — which was built during the pandemic — was purposefully constructed without a traditional fitness facility. 

“People have changed the way they exercise dramatically,” Steffan said, noting the dramatic rise in on-demand programming and in-home equipment that’s made its way into hotel accommodations. 

Hyatt is meeting guests’ changing needs with a unique approach that launches this month at five Hyatt Regency, Grand Hyatt and Hyatt properties. Instead of using their own room or the shared space at a hotel’s gym, guests can reserve suites in one-hour increments. The StayFit Private Fitness pilot suites have been retrofitted as fitness studios with “essential fitness equipment” in addition to a Precor treadmill and Peloton bike, with access to Peloton’s guided fitness experiences including strength, yoga, and meditation. 

The move is a strategic one in that Peloton co-branding can not only bring in additional guests (and interest via Peloton’s Hotel Finder search functionality) – but can also potentially bring in revenue. The StayFit private suites have a “small fee,” while use of standard gym facilities is complimentary. 

That could change, however, should other brands join the ranks of hoteliers like MCR. The owner-operator added charges for services and amenities at many of its independent hotels including High Line Hotel in Manhattan and TWA Hotel at John F. Kennedy International Airport. That includes $25 fees for a day pass at the gym or to use the pool on weekends.

The unbundling of services could ultimately benefit some guests, who stand to benefit from MCR Hotels’ now-lower room rates. An a la carte pricing model is also important for brands like HP Hotels to recoup or reduce higher sanitation costs due to the pandemic, said CEO Kerry Ranson. 

At Kimpton Marlowe in Cambridge, the past two years have been an opportunity to put a new, more holistic lens on the fitness program, said general manager Joe Capalbo. He is also regional director of operations for Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants of New England.

“Whether it’s our menus or our free biking program, we’ve had this wellness program for many years,” Capalbo said. “But the whole conversation in the [hospitality] industry has shifted from the fitness center and spa to this underlying approach that you want your guest to be their best self.”

To that end, Marlowe has broadened its scope even further beyond its gym space and social-distancing-friendly activities like free kayaks and paddleboards for a new partnership with Talkspace, a behavioral health company offering virtual services. The program includes complimentary video therapy sessions with licensed counselors to any guest over the age of 18 staying at one of 60-plus participating Kimpton properties.

New kayaking options from the Kimpton Marlow Hotel. Photo credit: Kimpton Marlowe Hotel

Other wellness initiatives sweeping hospitality don’t even have anything to do with guests’ conscious moments. Rosewood rolled out “Sleep Transformation” retreats early this year and debuted Bryte Sleep Suites at two Rosewood properties; the beds therein offer guided meditation. New York City’s Equinox Hotel’s holistic wellness experience features luxury soundproofing, blackout window treatments, sleep coaching, and “sound and harmonic resonance therapy.” Denver-based sleep coach Seth Davis says science supports the supposition that even a few days of restful slumber can indeed enhance a guest’s wellbeing.

For hoteliers who haven’t already, it seems now is a wake-up call to reconsider their traditional roles in guests’ rest and recreation.

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Tags: design, future of lodging, hotel gyms, hotels

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