Hotels Hotels finding fitness areas get scant use By Danny King / February 27, 2017 Share 1 The Even Hotels brand has in-room workout equipment. -- New research shows that while hotels continue to invest money in fitness space and equipment, fewer guests are spending the time to use it.According to a study on hotel-amenity usage published by the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research earlier this month, while almost half of U.S. travelers visit hotels with the expectation of using on-site gym equipment, just 22% end up doing so.What's more, it seems that the wealthier the guest, the less likely he or she is to go to the hotel gym; fewer than 40% of the people who said they would use a luxury hotel's fitness center actually made good on those plans. The study cited data from 33 hotels across six brands that are part of an unidentified "global company that operates midscale, upscale and luxury brands.""When people budget their time when they travel, the fitness center tends to be one of the first activities to go," said Chekitan Dev, associate professor at Cornell's SC Johnson College of Business and one of the report's authors. He added that as the overall quality of fitness equipment rises, "now, facilities in the home are nicer, and hotels are playing catch-up."As a result, when it comes to capital expenditures, hotel fitness equipment fails to pay for itself in the first year in the form of additional bookings spurred by the amenity, according to the study. In contrast, including amenities such as WiFi and in-room bottled water generate enough additional revenue in the form of bookings to more than offset their first-year costs.A fitness room at Tryp by Wyndham. The findings reveal a conundrum facing hotel developers as companies like Marriott International and Hilton establish more brands across both the full-service and select-service sector in order to take market share from the independents. Whereas on-site gyms were at one time confined primarily to higher-end hotels and resorts, increased brand standardization has turned the concept of an on-property fitness center from a luxury to a necessity, according to Mark VanStekelenburg, New York-based managing director at CBRE Hotels Consulting.That means that just about any developer building a branded hotel or redeveloping a site into a branded property will be saddled with a fitness center that can cost anywhere from $125,000 to $220,000 to build and an additional $8,300 to $16,000 a year to maintain, according to the study."Before it was more a function of resorts and urban hotels geared for urban travelers," said VanStekelenburg. "The days of being able to develop a hotel without a fitness center are behind us, with the exception of the economy sector." The findings also shed light on how some hotel operators in the past few years have tweaked their marketing strategies, through either branding or amenity provisions, to push more guests to use workout facilities and market them as a point of differentiation.For example, in 2010, Starwood Hotels & Resorts' Westin brand (Starwood was acquired by Marriott International last year) looked to broaden its appeal to fit-but-forgetful guests by forging an agreement with athletic gear supplier New Balance, enabling guests who forgot their workout clothes to rent New Balance gear from the hotel for $5.In 2012, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts complemented its Fairmont Fit program by reaching an agreement with Reebok to provide clothing, shoes and yoga mats that can be used by guests of the luxury-hotel chain. Accor bought Fairmont parent FRHI Hotels last year.Other hotel operators are approaching the concept of wellness by providing either more in-room or off-site opportunities for guests to use for a workout. In 2012, the Tryp by Wyndham brand opened its first U.S. property in New York, offering fitness guestrooms equipped with an exercise bike or an elliptical machine. Westin rents out New Balance workout clothes to guests. Most prominent in the effort to meld hospitality and fitness, though, are IHG's Even Hotels upscale brand and the fitness-club operator Equinox. Even Hotels, which debuted in 2014 and now has four properties, promotes its wellness push in part by emphasizing its high-quality gym facilities. The chain also includes in-room "training zones" that provide guests with a yoga mat and some workout equipment as well as access to workout videos.Equinox, which operates 86 fitness centers worldwide, said in 2015 that it would launch its own branded luxury hotel chain. The company will open its first hotel as part of Manhattan's Hudson Yards project in 2019.At the same time, some urban properties have made arrangements to either defray on-site fitness center costs by offering guests day passes to nearby gyms or turn fitness equipment into a revenue producer by offering membership-type subscriptions for people who work or live nearby.For example, about a year after Manhattan's Hyatt 48Lex opened in 2011, the 116-room property debuted its Lex Club, in which people could pay a $500 membership fee for amenities that include usage of the hotel's meetings rooms as well as fitness center access. (The hotel became independently branded in 2015.)Still, Dev said that on-site fitness centers help generate repeat business whether the guest in question uses the facilities or not, making such off-site gym agreements a poor substitute for in-house workout equipment."There is the option of providing access to a local gym," Dev said. "But I would rather deal with [an on-site] fitness center, even if it's in somewhat a state of disrepair."___Correction: Accor acquired Fairmont last year. A previous version of this report erroneously said that IHG acquired Fairmont.