Healthy renovations for fitness centers

Space in a hotel is at a premium, and rooms that don’t generate revenue often get the short end of the stick. Not surprisingly then, designers have tended to outfit fitness centers on the smaller size, or use space in less-trafficked areas, such as the basement. 

But with wellness and staying fit top-of-mind for many travelers these days, hotels without a formidable gym are at a disadvantage. New-build or renovation, fitness centers more and more are commanding premium space.

“If you come to market without a fitness center, you have to either work out something with a commercial operation nearby, or find a way to explain to your guests why the room isn’t there,” said Chris White, SVP of WTS International, a spa consulting and management firm.

White has seen nearly every type of property adding fitness centers in renovations throughout 2013, even if they are a minimum of 150 square feet. “It’s a box the hotel checks off in order to be competitive—and the room always sees use,” White said.

It’s the full-service segment that tends to have larger, more upscale fitness centers, but the economy sector is now taking note—and a cue. John Sarver, founder of Hotel Fitness, a provider of commercial exercise and fitness equipment for hotels, primarily sees these hotels sacrificing one to two rooms to create a fitness space. Sarver recounts a recent Sleep Inn renovation that called for the installation of a $40,000 fitness center in order to keep business generated from a nearby company’s corporate headquarters.

“Renovations of this nature are often heavily dictated by a hotel’s local marketplace,” Sarver said. “[The Sleep Inn] did what they had to do to keep their regulars as clients.”

According to White, it is more important for a property to simply have a fitness space than it is to have a large amount of space. Popular workout activities, such as yoga, require large footprints to be effective, but hotels are not ideal locations to set up classes.

“It’s difficult for a hotel to have an established yoga class schedule because you don’t always know what kind of guests you will have in your hotel,” White said. “Depending on location, you never know. So if you have the space, it’s a nice thing to add, but not if it hurts possible room revenue.”