Transforming fitness in hotels

What was once a space underutilised by hotel operators and their guests, hotel fitness facilities are now a vital amenity for the majority of guests. So how are hoteliers responding? Luke Christou finds out.

According to French Hospitality company Accor, 66% of guests have adopted a healthier lifestyle in the past two years, and more than a quarter would be willing to pay more for a hotel with gym facilities.

Technology is also playing an increasingly important role for consumers, with 79% of people now using technology to support their health and wellbeing. From fitness trackers that constantly measure vitals, to smart scales that provide accurate body composition breakdowns, technology is helping consumers to become more aware of the impact that their workouts have.

Expectations are changing and the hotel industry is starting to respond, exploring new ways that technology can improve their fitness facilities to gain a competitive edge. But what technologies are hotels exploring, what make them an ideal addition to hotel facilities, and how are guests responding?

Simplifying hotel workouts

For the majority of guests, visits to local sights or back-to-back business meetings likely take priority over a workout. However, artificial intelligence is helping hotels to offer an optimal workout in a reduced amount of time, allowing guests to maintain their health and wellbeing without compromising their busy itineraries.

London’s Eccleston Square Hotel, for example, uses a combination of AI and cloud-based technologies to provide guests with information and entertainment in a few clicks. The hotel doesn’t feature an on-site gym, however, the hotel’s tablet-based service catalogue Bowo can help guests to access nearby fitness centres at discounted prices with ease.

Start-ups like CAR.O.L are applying AI to the fitness space. Its AI-powered exercise bike uses self-learning algorithms to personalise a workout to suit the user depending on their fitness level. The technology constantly optimises the bike’s resistance throughout the workout to push each user to their limit in less time.

A complete CAR.O.L workout requires a time commitment of just nine minutes.

A complete CAR.O.L workout requires a time commitment of just nine minutes, and the user only has to exert themselves for 40 seconds in total. Two high-intensity 20-second sprints are cushioned between a two-minute warm-up, and two three-minute rest periods.

While this may not seem like enough time, an independent study by the American Council on Exercise found CAR.O.L’s high-intensity routine to be just as effective as the 30 minutes of daily exercise recommended by various government bodies.

CAR.O.L has yet to launch its sales campaign targeting the leisure industry. However, its equipment is already starting to find its way into the tourism sector. CAR.O.L is currently available at the luxury Six Senses Douro Valley, Portugal, as well as at the Beverly Hilton’s Upgrade Labs facility in California, US.

“CAR.O.L is perfect for both business and leisure hotel guests because a workout on CAR.O.L takes up a minimal amount of time and only needs to be used three times a week, leaving hotel guests more time to enjoy their holiday time and, if it’s a business trip, more time to squeeze in a workout between meetings or conference sessions,” says founder and CEO Ratna Singh.

Valeries, one of Birch’s two restaurants, will offer guests all-day casual dining.

The private fitness suite

While on-site fitness spaces are increasingly popular with guests, gym workouts aren’t for everyone.

Shrinking “an entire gym’s worth of weight training equipment” down into a wall-mounted 24-inch touchscreen display, Tonal - creator of the “world’s most intelligent home gym” - believes it can provide an alternative to dedicated fitness spaces in hotels by allowing guests to work out from the comfort of their guest room.

Using electromagnetic resistance, controlled by an intricate AI coach, Tonal provides up to 90kg of resistance without the need for bulky weight sets or machines. It’s Coach AI, a virtual personal trainer, assesses the strength of each user and adjusts in real-time to improve performance. Users have access to hundreds of tailored workouts, from strength training to cardio sessions, without leaving their room.

Users have access to hundreds of tailored workouts without leaving their room.

“Convenience and personalisation; with one sleek, compact system, Tonal allows you to do everything that a traditional gym offers in the comfort and privacy of your hotel room,” says Chris Stadler, chief marketing officer for Tonal.

Tonal’s potential as a hotel room amenity is currently being tested at the Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley. The California hotel installed Tonal systems in a number of guest rooms in January, and the response from guests has helped to validate the demand for in-room fitness.

“Tonal has had great traction and a lot of positive feedback with some guests rebooking the Tonal rooms every time they stay, and others asking about purchasing one for their homes,” Stadler says.

Frequent travellers are able to create an account and log in to their profile on any Tonal machine, ensuring workouts are consistent and personalised no matter where they are in the world.

The Four Seasons Silicon Valley is currently the only hotel that offers Tonal in guestrooms. However, with social distancing measures likely to be in place for some time, the hotel chain believes partnerships like this could increase in importance.

“In these current times of social distancing our Tonal partnership is becoming even more relevant, allowing guests to continue their workout routine in the privacy of their guest room,” a spokesperson for the hotel said.

Birch will host events year-round, designed to offer guests an escape from everyday life.

Providing new experiences

A recent report published by travel technology company Amadeus, The importance of understanding travelers’ motivation’, calls on travel companies to “focus on the subtle, often unexpressed, drivers for travelling”. One of these drivers, the company believes, is seeking out new or unique experiences.

Travellers may not be expecting to find new experiences in a hotel’s fitness centre. However, ICAROS, a start-up focused on fusing health-science and gaming technology, is providing guests with access to unique adventures from a hotel’s fitness centre, all while completing their daily workout.

The ICAROS home trainer, which comes paired with a virtual reality headset, allows its users to experience the sensation of flying. With ten different apps and games to choose from, users can explore a range of different environments, from deep space, to underwater. Each experience is designed to train a variety of muscle groups, with a particular focus on the core and upper body, while also improving the user’s reflexes, balance, and coordination.

It’s Pro model, designed for use in gyms, therapy centres or hotels has been designed to serve the high frequency of visitors that pass through these establishments’ doors, with a more stable and robust design.

Users can explore a range of different environments, from deep space, to underwater.

“Most, if not all facilities are consequently looking to offer their customers innovative ways of working out, which is why ICAROS is an ideal addition to those facilities, especially in the premium sector,” Markus Krach, marketing manager for ICAROS, explains. “The workout with ICAROS is highly immersive, efficient and something people have not experienced before.”

Through unique, tailored VR experiences designed by companies like ICAROS, hotels can provide guests with a unique perspective of local landmarks and tourist attractions that they otherwise wouldn’t see.

“Our new photorealistic experience ENGADIN enables customers to fly through the Swiss Alps and check out the slopes that they will be skiing on the next day, fly over their hotels, and check out part of the mountains that they normally wouldn't have visited,” Krach says.

Fitness technology “presents clear opportunities for the physical activity sector”, says fitness industry association ukactive in its report, The current state of fittech’. Whether it’s virtual reality creating more engaging consumer experiences, information and booking systems enhancing business operations, or in-room fitness equipment bringing guests back on their next visit, technology is presenting new opportunities in fitness for hotels to explore.

Birch will host events year-round, designed to offer guests an escape from everyday life.