Hotel fitness set to radically change, enter guestrooms
Hotel fitness set to radically change, enter guestrooms
09 JULY 2020 8:15 AM

No guests expect hotels to continue the hygiene protocols from before COVID-19, and the same is true of gym, fitness and wellness offerings, more of which will start to migrate to guestrooms.

REPORT FROM EUROPE—Wellness and fitness offerings will not look the same when hotels reopen after COVID-19 closures.

Not only will fitness and wellness equipment and services be less accessible, but those that remain will likely no longer take place in standard gym spaces, sources said.

Undoubtedly, markets will begin to offer new fitness services at different paces from one another depending on the easing of lockdowns, and how guests trust such offerings will go in step with changes hotels already are putting in place in regards to hygiene.

Sources said that COVID-19 has made guests far more understanding of how to look after themselves and to improve their immunities, with hotels being in a great position to help look after guests.

Sjur Aalvik, GM of the 244-room Quality Spa & Resort Norefjell in Norway, said his property reopened on 19 June and that gyms, in hotels or otherwise, were allowed to reopen four days earlier.

He said his hotel’s gym and spa facilities have restrictions placed on them, but that as the summer is prized among Nordic people for the ability to be outdoors in the mountains, the hotel will be able to cope with the necessary changes.

“We’re still doing spa treatments in our 14 rooms, but guests are mostly here for hiking and other pursuits, so we’ll be able to disinfect on an ongoing basis,” he said.

Other sources said wellness is not just moving outdoors, it is also moving into guestrooms.

Tea Ros, managing director of Strategic Hotel Consulting, said she had long felt that fitness has not been very well executed in hotels.

“Things in guestrooms that might have been nice to have now are must-haves. A lot of people now are not comfortable to go to gyms, so hotels must provide the minimum,” Ros said. “Hilton (Hotels) has developed the concept to bring fitness into the whole room design with its Five Feet to Fitness initiative, but none have been executed as yet. The rest of the fitness piece in the industry appears to be fluffy marketing speech that circles around the idea, and of course travelers on the road are not seeing it.”

She said making a guestroom into a place where guests can get a workout can be simple and does not have to involve a lot of front-end investment.

“The reality of how you live healthily does not need a complicated setup,” she said. “There are a lot more simple solutions, such as in-room training, that do not require design … and then there are health ideas, such as jetlag recovery, information from hoteliers as to what they recommend for the first 24 hours of being in a different times zone and blackout curtains to get into the right mode of sleep, but you need the right partners who can executive this.”

Loyalty steps
Sources said hotel loyalty programs have increasingly moved into providing guests exceptional experiences and that this idea will migrate into health and fitness.

Mark Arnall, Formula 1’s Kimi Räikkönen’s personal trainer and physio and a regular speaker at industry events such as the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, said as the industry nears a post-COVID 19 world, people understand they need to be healthier in four areas: stress, sleep, nutrition and training.

“Hotels do the sleep side very well, but from the training side they are on a different level to the consumer. There is a missed opportunity for the in-room experience,” Arnall said, who added he spends more than 200 nights a year in hotels during the F1 racing calendar. “Hotels have the mindset that there has to be a gym, and that guests have 45 minutes to an hour to spend in them, but there is a lot you can do with little or even no equipment. The assumption, though, is that there is not a demand for that.”

Arnall said guests are pressed for time.

“Highlight such fitness schemes in 30, 40 rooms maybe, with yoga, stretching, aerobics, but I have yet to see a room with a fitness setup in it,” he added.

Aalvik said with Norway out of lockdown, guests are coming back and heading not to the gym but in larger numbers out into the mountains for fresh air.

“It will not be a disastrous year,” Aalvik said. “Eighty-five percent of our guests will be Norwegians, (which is) an increase, and while last year in July we (sold) 1,300 rooms, we will sell 3,000 rooms this year,”

He added that the fall will be tougher as conference groups stay away, but the winter will see improvements as mountain enthusiasts normally set on Austria and Switzerland will stay at home.

Nutritional nudging
F&B is another key element of the new healthier lifestyle as hotels increasingly partner with top experts, Ros said.

“Number one is nutrition, so breakfast by (insert expert’s name), offerings that boost energy right now for the next three hours or slow-release carbs for the duration of the day,” she said. “It is not rocket science, but most travelers have no idea. Certainly when time is limited.

“Hotels will be one step ahead of the game.”

The key to success is having management and owners understand the benefits of looking differently at how fitness and wellness is delivered, Ros said.

“It is not simple to explain to owners,” she said. “Perhaps they need to be fitness aficionados themselves? And top management also needs to understand. Overall, there still is a large lag between ownership/management and guest needs.”

That lag is different in different markets.

“In Europe, there are few gyms and even fewer good ones,” Ros said. “That is due to generally less space and culturally different attitudes. In the Middle East, they are too grand, and they are selling to external members. In China they are doing a better job.”

She added one property she thought was doing fitness well is the Address Montgomerie, Dubai.

Fitness investment is a worthwhile one for hotel owners, Ros said.

“Hoteliers need a longer-term view, to recognize this is what the customer wants now. Investment might not be paid back quickly, but it will capture guests,” she said. “Do it now, and do it meaningfully, as this is what the guest wants.”

Arnall said brands clamoring for loyal guests could do well by specializing in their health.

“Right now, every hotel is desperate for guests, who want something different and clean and with trusted partnerships,” he said.

Hotels are doing that with hygiene, so why not with health, he added.

“Hotels have so much influence on people’s action and have the ability to get messages out, but it comes down to how they (transmit) those messages,” Arnall said. “Post-COVID-19, guests will want to be healthier and to understand the underlying conditions of health.”

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