What's inside the next generation of hotel fitness centers

As guests place an ever-increasing value on “wellness” when they travel, hotels are scrambling to find the best way to provide fitness options that suit their needs. 
“Guests want choices and want to be given access to things that allow them to meet their wellness routines on their own terms when they travel,” said Jason Moskal, VP, lifestyle brands at IHG, Americas. “Some highlights of what we hear guests are looking for include better gym spaces, more food choices, more collaborative, open spaces, and clean and modern designs done through a wellness lens.”  

Brand-Guided Design

Brian Povinelli, SVP and global brand leader of Marriott's Premium Distinctive brands, said that high design is a “price of entry among today's travelers.” Marriott's Le Méridien brand, for example, is rolling out its “mid-century modern design aesthetic” to the fitness spaces in the brand's 100 hotels—in part, Povinelli said, because there is a “growing global demand among business travelers for well-designed, thoughtful spaces where they are spending their time—and increasingly, it's focused on their well-being.” 
Like the lobby and the guestrooms, a hotel's fitness center should reflect the property's location “For example, at Le Méridien New Orleans, the design team incorporated destination-inspired details into the gym space by including vintage boxing gloves, paying homage to the city’s legacy as the first destination to host the heavyweight boxing championship in 1870,” Povinelli said. Meanwhile, the Westin Denver International Airport’s fitness studio looks out over the surrounding mountains. 
Most recently, Westin partnered with high-tech bike company Peloton for bikes in some of its fitness centers. “The commercial-grade bike is easy to navigate and provides users instant access to on-demand classes or on-demand rides,” Povinelli said. “We are also rolling out equipment for those guests more into a CrossFit type of workout…no manual needed. So it’s a balance of making it easy and leveraging great programming that our guests are looking to incorporate into their routine.” 
Marriott’s eco-friendly Element brand has become a sort of “testing ground” for the company’s 29 other brands to experiment with fitness opportunities, initiatives and equipment. “It’s not a hotel that happens to have a small gym,” Aliya Khan, Marriott’s VP of global design strategies, said of the 9-year-old brand. “It is a true, detailed, articulated fitness center. The type of equipment, the motion fitness programming is of a much higher caliber than you might expect to see in that market segment.” 
Rather than having the fitness space in a basement, Khan said, the Element centers are “front-and-center” in each hotel, allowing plenty of daylight in. “It ties itself to the personality of the brand,” she said. 

For Marriott’s new Moxy brand, “where it’s always with a sense of playfulness,” Khan said, the hotels’ fitness centers have a punching bag. “Even something technically programmed takes on a little bit of that personality,” she said. 

Bringing the Fitness Center to the Guestroom

In May, Hilton announced a new guestroom concept that lets guests exercise on classic gym equipment in their hotel rooms. The new Five Feet to Fitness concept includes an indoor bike from British cycling company Wattbike and a Gym Rax training station with equipment for strength, core, suspension and high-intensity interval training workouts. The rooms also have a meditation chair and blackout shades. The Gym Rax system also includes a touchscreen Fitness Kiosk with on-demand equipment tutorials and guided workout routines. 
The main ideas behind the room concept, according to Bryan Green, founder and CEO of Aktiv Solutions, the company that designed the rooms, were convenience and privacy. “Nearly every traveler places some value towards one or both of these objectives, especially during business travel where time is limited, and staying healthy away from home is everyone’s challenge,” Green said. “The fitness guestrooms solve these issues and at an affordable price.” 
Creating the guestroom required a complete “intentionalization” of what it would take to provide a complete workout experience worth paying for, Green said. “Safety, functional movement area and esthetics were certainly the biggest considerations.” 
All devices are connected to the digital content, which can be personalized for each guest, and the kiosk can guide each guest through whatever workout he or she wants. “Then, adding a versatile interval training bike as well as floor markings that correspond to the movement patterns coached via the kiosk pull this all together,” he said. “The result is an extremely space efficient yet functional offering that compartmentalizes the fitness aside from the other areas of the guest room.” 
Flooring transitions also support the areas for exercise where guests need it, and then living quarters for the rest of the time when they don’t, Green said. 
Hilton’s Five Feet to Fitness is currently available at Parc 55 San Francisco—a Hilton Hotel and Hilton McLean Tysons Corner (Va.) and is coming soon to markets including Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Chicago; Las Vegas; New York and San Diego. And as each new hotel opens, the design team will figure out new ways to update and upgrade the rooms. “We’re already planning for the next generation” of fitness-focused guestrooms, Green said. 
Hilton is hardly the first company to bring fitness to the guestroom, however. IHG’s Even Hotels have included in-room fitness zones since the brand launched five years ago. “We found that flexible fitness options enhanced not only the likelihood to exercise, but was a driver for future stays,” Moskal said, noting that the majority of Even guests use the both the “Athletic Studio”—the brand’s take on a fitness center—and the in-room fitness options.
Every Even guestroom includes a mounted fitness wall, resistance bands, an exercise ball, a yoga mat, a yoga block and fitness videos ranging from five-30 minutes in length on demand via the TV. The in-room fitness zone area also has distinctive flooring in order to create a more comfortable workout environment and clearly identifies the space for working out.
“Approximately 60 percent of guests indicated they used the in-room fitness zones,” Moskal added.