As executive director of Destination DC, which markets the capital to travelers, Elliott Ferguson knows a thing or two about hotels. When he travels, one of the first things he looks for is a good fitness center.
“Before I physically go up to my room, I stop by . . . to assess what they have and figure out what I can do,” Ferguson said. “Some hotels offer yoga and cycling and/or at least access to some of the various companies that do that here in Washington, D.C. That really makes a big difference when people are looking at where they’re going to stay.”
A growing number of hotels are making exercising on the road even more accessible – taking equipment to guest rooms.
At the end of May, the Hilton McLean in Virginia became one of two Hiltons to offer Five Feet to Fitness rooms, which have 11 pieces of workout equipment and accessories. They include an indoor Wattbike bicycle and Gym Rax, a training station that lets users tackle body-weight moves with TRX straps. The main attraction is the fitness kiosk, a touch-screen display that offers more than 200 videos, including tutorials on all the equipment, cycling, high-intensity interval training and yoga classes.
Customer feedback drove Hilton to build these rooms, which cost $45 to $90 more per night than standard rooms. About 10 percent to 15 percent of guests use the fitness center, and a quarter expressed interest in an in-room option, said Ryan Crabbe, senior director of global wellness at Hilton. He also cited a February report by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration that says that “46 percent of guests expected to work out in the fitness center during their stay, but only 22 percent actually did so.”
“Fitness centers will remain really important and I think the hub of activity for fitness-minded travelers,” Crabbe said. “We just have a lot of guests who have told us that having an in-room fitness option would provide really nice convenience.”
The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown reopened its spa and fitness center in April after a $1.5 million renovation that included the addition of 13 “spa-level” rooms. Costing $65 to $100 more per night, they include a wellness ball, yoga mat, aromatherapy and a white-noise machine.
“Some of those rooms are larger than the standard room, but what we did ensure is that you have enough space in either one of those rooms to do your basic workout and use the equipment that we’ve added,” said Marcus Loevenforst, the hotel’s general manager.
Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants offers Gaiam yoga mats in every room and on-demand TV programming that guides guests through 15- to 75-minute flow or power yoga or Pilates sessions. There’s also the free “roll-out service,” in which a staff member takes flavored water and fresh or dried fruit and nuts to the room, lays out the mat and turns on the fitness channel.
With no communal gym, Kimpton’s Topaz Hotel in Washington has been providing fitness rooms stocked with an elliptical trainer, treadmill or recumbent bike since 2001. They cost $25 to $30 more than standard rooms, said Ben Timashenka, a regional vice president at Kimpton.
“The person that wants to work out, they want to have the ability to do so, whether that be a fitness center or individualizing your guest room,” Timashenka said.
Danielle Young, 32, of San Mateo, California, changed her reservation when Westin Hotels & Resorts, part of Marriott International, on April 26 announced its partnership with Peloton, seller of indoor cycling bikes with screens for streaming real-time or on-demand classes. The deal puts the commercial-grade bikes in WestinWorkout rooms and fitness centers in 32 hotels nationwide.
“I literally got off the red-eye and went straight to the gym,” Young said of the Westin Michigan Avenue Chicago Hotel, where she stayed on a recent business trip.
An avid Peloton user since 2014, she travels two to three weeks each month. “I prioritize my fitness when I travel. It’s just a really important element to me,” Young said. “This has made it that much easier for me to know I’m going to get those high-quality workouts.”
About 70 Westins have been offering fitness rooms with cycling bikes or treadmills. The Peloton rooms also have yoga mats, blocks and straps, and light weights that guests can use with Peloton’s Beyond the Ride stretching, core and toning classes.
The partnership came about after a survey by the hotel last year found that 70 percent of global travelers struggle to maintain their wellness routines on the road, said Sarah Lipton, the brand’s global director of marketing and management, and that 51 percent of Westin guests are likely to have gym memberships.
“Gyms have become something that cannot be an afterthought in hotels,” Lipton said.
Another chain taking fitness to the room is Even Hotels by InterContinental Hotels Group, which is featuring cork flooring and exercise equpment for in-room workouts.
Tryp Hotels Worldwide, part of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, has fitness rooms that come with a treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike, plus workout gear, clothing and a mat, while guests of Trump Hotels can request in-room equipment, Under Armour workout clothing and loaded iPod shuffles through the Travel Fit program.
With 85 percent of hotels offering an exercise room or fitness facility last year, up from 63 percent in 2004, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s 2016 Lodging Survey, it’s clear that fitness is growing in importance.
When hotels began adding fitness centers, they were relegated to the basement and had a couple of basic cardio machines, said Abid Butt, an instructor in the global hospitality leadership program at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies. “We’ve come a long ways when it comes to fitness at hotels,” Butt said. “I think it will be there for a long time.”
The hotel industry is also responding to a changing demographic, said Larry Yu, professor of hospitality management at George Washington University.
“Evolving from baby boomers to millennials, fitness has really become a lifestyle,” Yu said. “It’s not just your typical amenity now. Hotels are all working very hard to figure out how they can provide the best service and equipment to the guests because the guests expect and value those.”
But in-room fitness isn’t an option for every hotel. “A treadmill or an elliptical or a big piece like that is still a little bit impractical, especially treadmills because there are sound issues – the pounding of the treadmill, the size,” said Kurt Broadhag, president and lead designer at K Allan Consulting, which helps hotels design gyms. “It really lends itself more to mind/body classes, where you want an intimate setting.”
Because of that, “I don’t think the fitness center is ever going to go away,” he added.
Jeff David, general manager at Washington’s Watergate Hotel, agrees. This year, it opened its $3.5 million spa and wellness center, including a 1,831-square-foot gym. Additionally, the hotel has started offering fitness classes such as rooftop yoga, power sculpt and aqua barre in the pool.
“The new renaissance is the gym facilities are starting to be quantified and key differentiators [in] how people decide their stay,” David said. “I see that fitness is starting to become a pillar, much like food and beverage or rooms.”