Hotels embrace the evolution of in-room fitness in Covid era

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A Rooftop Wellness Suite at Hotel Esencia in Mexico.
A Rooftop Wellness Suite at Hotel Esencia in Mexico.

Forget the fitness center.

In a Covid-era world, in-room workout options are quickly becoming de rigueur at many high-end hotels.

"I think that prepandemic, the private, in-room gym was traditionally seen as something typically reserved for VIPs who might request to have equipment set up in the penthouse," said Victoria Batten, director of sales and marketing at the Langham New York. "But the pandemic has made a lot of people realize it's nice to have your own personal gym equipment. Many are still a bit fearful about working out with other people."

Fitness equipment in a Deluxe room at the Langham New York.
Fitness equipment in a Deluxe room at the Langham New York.

In response to such anxieties, the Langham New York recently launched its Work In or Work Out promotion. The offer includes accommodations in a Deluxe King Room as well as another adjoining Deluxe room at half price, with the second room able to be set up for either remote working and/or schooling or as a private fitness area.

If used as the latter, the adjoining room comes stocked with Technogym equipment, free weights, an exercise mat and ball, resistance bands and complimentary, on-demand fitness content, which can be accessed via the TV.

The equipment and weights can be customized according to individual preference, Batten added.

"We'll work with the travel advisor or the guest directly to make sure the gym meets their needs," she said. "If someone hates the elliptical machine and would rather have a stationary bike, we bring a bike up. There's lots of flexibility."

Customization is also a focus for lifestyle hospitality group SBE, which unveiled a partnership with luxury personal training brand Dogpound in late October. In addition to physical gyms in New York and Los Angeles, Dogpound also offers virtual training services. 

"We were mulling the best way to roll out Dogpound across our facilities, and the pandemic hit, and it became a no-brainer that virtual training was the answer," said Philippe Zrihen, chief business officer for SBE. "The pandemic has clearly made people realize that working out in a virtual setting is not only doable but actually has many advantages."

SBE has already debuted in-room virtual Dogpound training at its SLS South Beach and SLS Brickell properties in Miami, with expansion to the group's Mondrian Doha hotel in Qatar to follow. According to Zrihen, the Dogpound programming is expected to be rolled out across SBE's full portfolio over the next six to nine months.

Under the partnership, SBE guests can connect with trainers through in-room tablets for live training sessions. Workouts are personalized, and the tablets can be taken to other areas of the property, such as the beach, should a guest prefer to exercise outdoors.

"Ultimately, variety is hugely important in fitness," said Zrihen. "People are working out more and more, so there's a need to diversify beyond the typical routine every single day. And because fitness isn't our primary line of business, that means that, as a hotel, partnering with brands that can provide that flexibility and variety for you is the wave of the future."

Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has similarly opted to forge strategic fitness partnerships, linking with wellness video subscription platform Grokker to offer guests complimentary in-room yoga, Pilates and other fitness content at properties worldwide.

Working out with a Mirror interactive fitness system.
Working out with a Mirror interactive fitness system.

In the U.S., Mandarin Oriental has also deployed Mirror fitness systems in suites at select locations.

Mirror, which is an interactive, digital fitness trainer that looks like a full-length mirror, provides users on-demand access to live and prerecorded fitness classes and training sessions, with more than 50 different fitness genres available, from kickboxing to barre to dance cardio.

"There's a growing awareness of the need for in-room fitness options," said Jeremy McCarthy, group director of spa and wellness for Mandarin Oriental. "One downside of the traditional fitness center is that fitness training has become much more niche and personalized. One guest does yoga, another does CrossFit, another may do dance classes. It's getting harder and harder to provide a single space that caters to all our guests."

At Hotel Esencia, a 45-room boutique property just south of Mexico's Playa del Carmen, guests will soon be able to opt for private accommodations that offer a wealth of fitness options. This month, the hotel debuted five Rooftop Wellness Suites, which each span two floors and feature amenities like a Mirror system and weight kit as well as add-on options like a Peloton bike or treadmill. The suites also offer a rooftop pool, outdoor shower and steam sauna and can be connected to a separate suite below to create a family-style villa.

"These suites are essentially your own private spa and fitness facility," said Hotel Escencia owner Kevin Wendle.

But despite surging demand for privacy, SBE's Zrihen doesn't envision the hotel fitness center disappearing altogether. While in-room fitness options are likely to continue gaining traction post-pandemic, he believes that a communal gym will always be an important amenity for guests who "want a reason to get out of their room or get motivated by being around others."

As for the future of in-room fitness, Zrihen looks forward to seeing just how far technology can push the envelope.

"As technology keeps on improving and we tap into things like artificial intelligence and virtual reality, the experience of working out on your own virtually will evolve," he said. "We believe technology will play a huge role in fitness, and it'll be exciting to see where it goes." 

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