Keeping Guests Fit and Happy

America may have a higher percentage of overweight citizens than any other country in the western world, but that doesn't seem to deter our efforts in battling the bulge, or at least promising to start doing so — tomorrow.

Hotels have catered to fitness buffs for years, but a recent survey of 300 business travelers for Westin Hotels & Resorts found that hotel fitness rooms often disappoint. Sixty-four percent of business travelers said that hotel fitness rooms “seem like an afterthought,” 75 percent said the quality of workout rooms is inconsistent from one hotel to the next and more than half (55 percent) decided not to use a hotel workout room because it was in such bad condition.

However, many hotels and hotel companies are kicking it up a notch — installing more sophisticated equipment in larger, dedicated facilities, partnering with professional fitness companies, or hiring professional on-site trainers and bringing the workout to the guestroom.

WHIPPING WESTIN INTO SHAPE

High on any hotel guest's fit-wish list would have to be a guestroom with built-in fitness facility. Westin is delivering on that with its recently unveiled WestinWorkout Rooms. The fully equipped guestrooms enable hotel guests to work out in privacy using a variety of cardiovascular and strength equipment. By the end of last month, all 77 Westin hotels and resorts in North America were slated to feature the new rooms. Westin hotels in Europe and Asia will have the new fitness rooms installed by next January.

“We looked at a portable solution of bringing equipment to the rooms upon request, but decided a permanent solution would offer a better guest experience,” says Sue Brush, senior vice president, Westin. “This way we can put down the proper mat for the treadmill or cycle, position it properly in the room and then complement it with a custom piece of furniture to hold the stability ball, stretch bands, water, running literature and even free weights. It's a very complete package which guests appreciate and are willing to pay for.”

This development marks phase two of Westin's focus on guest fitness. Since November 2003, the company has invested more than $10 million to redesign fitness facilities. The centerpiece of this program is WestinWorkout powered by Reebok — custom-designed fitness facilities inspired by upscale health clubs in major cities throughout the U.S.

“We know that two-thirds of travelers want to work out while on the road yet most of them don't make it to the gym,” says Brush. “With WestinWorkout Rooms, hotel guests are able to fit their regular cardio, strength training or exercise routines into their hectic travel schedules with the added luxury of a private workout at any time.”

Each WestinWorkout Room features a Reebok Tomahawk XL Indoor Cycle or Life Fitness Treadmill, Reebok Pilates/Yoga and Spinning DVDs and a custom-designed fitness shelf that holds other equipment. It also features a fitness library by Rodale Press, including several books and magazines like Runner's World, Bicycling Magazine and a customized local running map.

The workout rooms are available for an additional charge, starting around $20 above market rates. The downside? Their popularity. With participating hotels offering just a few of the rooms, guests looking to book them might be shut out. “Many hotels have already increased the number of workout rooms,” says Brush. “The Westin New York at Times Square has such a demand that they've devoted an entire floor of rooms to WestinWorkout.”

Here's an idea for hotels without as much capital to invest in expensive fitness equipment: Westin also offers, at select hotels, RunWestin, a complimentary program offering guided, scenic three-mile morning runs three days a week. Led by Westin's “Running Concierge,” trained by the experts at Runner's World magazine, the run includes a warm-up session with training tips and can be customized into an enjoyble individual or group run.

And for guests traveling with youngsters, the hotel provides jogging strollers. As a post-workout treat, all guests received bottled water and towels. It's low tech and high service.

MORE IN-ROOM OPTIONS

Another affordable option for hoteliers looking to offer guests fitness programming is in-room video exercise and lightweight equipment like yoga mats and hand weights. Hilton Garden Inn recently introduced its complimentary Stay Fit Kit and in-room fitness programming, available at properties throughout North America.

“Some guests just don't want to work out in a workout facility. They prefer to work out in the comfort and privacy of their rooms,” says Mark Nogal, vice president, marketing, Hilton Garden Inn.

Each Stay Fit Kit duffle bag (available through the front desk) includes a yoga mat, bricks and strap; pilate band; resistance cord; hand weights; and medicine ball. Kits were selected for their ability to provide guests with a more isometric and core body workout. Kits are accompanied by instructions and exercises for each piece of equipment. Guests also have the option of purchasing a fitness program and workout from their in-room entertainment programming. Choices such as “Yoga,” “Pilates”, “Core”, and “General Fitness” are offered at an affordable price and range from 25-30 minutes in length.

FACILITY FACTORS

Outfitting a fitness facility can be daunting, with numerous factors to consider. There's finding the right mix of cardio and resistance equipment, for example, determining whether to partner with an existing dedicated club and whether to buy or lease equipment. That's why operators go to pros, like Duke Hoffman, director of strategic contracting for Avendra, LLC, a hospitality purchasing company, or partner with the manufacturers directly. And Hoffman emphasizes the importance of dealing with reputable, name-brand equipment manufacturers. “Guests are looking for name-brand fitness equipment they recognize from their own clubs,” says Hoffman. Larger manufacturers also have the expertise to advise on facility size and layout. “You don't want to cram it all into a little room or only offer a few pieces. You don't do yourself a service that way.”

Another popular feature, especially in upscale hotels, are TVs built into the equipment. A number of companies make the freestanding TVs and a number of the equipment manufacturers also have the option built into the control panel.

Liability is a key fitness issue, particularly if you've got heavy, mechanical equipment in a guestroom operated without supervision. “That's why it's important when choosing a fitness company to get an indemnity agreement in your contract, to basically indemnify, and hold harmless, the hotel for issues that arise with the equipment, assuming it's properly maintained and not misused,” says Hoffman.

You want a company that can provide good layout and design, adds Hoffman. “They all offer it. Some offer 3-D design with a walk-through of the facility. They've gotten very sophisticated with it. And they don't usually have an issue if you have another manufacturer's equipment in the mix.

“We found, in talking to hotels, a big issue is ‘how I get as much equipment as possible into a limited space’. But that's not necessarily the best use of space. Leave it to the professionals. Sometimes less equipment works more efficiently in a better layout.”

Visit www.LHonline.com for more information and related articles.

LET'S GET PHYSICAL

Cross Trainer

The Cybex Total Body Arc Trainer expands on the capabilities of the Arc Trainer. This cross trainer provides the added versatility of upper body training while keeping the variable incline of Cybex's Advanced Stride Technology. With an exceptionally broad resistance range from 0 to 900 watts, the training experience can be as gentle or intense as desired. With 11 incline and 101 resistance levels, and heart rate monitoring capabilities, the Cybex is a versatile cross trainer. Circle 190

LCD Entertainment

Life Fitness' family of LCD entertainment solutions are for fitness facilities that want to have cardiovascular machines equipped with personal entertainment. From an integrated touch screen to a universal stand system, Life Fitness' line of LCD solutions provides entertainment options for new or already-in-use cardio equipment. Circle 191

Water Workout

The Aquatrend Water Workout Station gives health-conscious guests a great alternative to the hotel gym. Simply install the Water Workout Station to realize revenues from your pool. The water workout station provides 10 body sculpting exercises, a Cardio Circuit, that provides 13 exercises, and the Power Circuit, which incorporates aerobic and muscular conditioning. The Aquatrend Water Workout Station is lightweight and compact, simple to install and remove and doesn't take up valuable pool space. Circle 192

Fitness Equipment

True Fitness offers a complete line of high-quality fitness equipment to the hospitality industry. Its product line includes treadmills, elliptical cross trainers, upright and recumbent cycles, multi-station gyms and single-station strength pieces. Its design and planning team understands how spatial requirements, brand standards and clientele translate into facility design. It assists clients in recommending and providing the proper equipment to meet the specific needs of a hotel or resort. Circle 193

Elliptical Cross Trainer

The Octane Fitness Pro350 elliptical cross trainer incorporates “body-mapping ergonomics” and patented “quadlink drive” that deliver exact inertia and smooth, fluid motion to replicate natural movements like walking, jogging and running. In addition, the Pro350 claims the closet pedal spacing in the industry to optimize comfort and virtually eliminate potential back stress; articulating pedals that support the feet throughout the stride and low pivot point handlebars that foster natural movement and transfer more workload to the upper body. The machine is self-powered, uses a space-efficient design, incorporates a fully enclosed front drive for safety and is made from a heavy-duty reinforced welded steel frame. Circle 194

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