Mr. Broadhag

Spas, Health & Fitness

Incorporating Spa-like Principles into Your Hotel Fitness Center

By Kurt A. Broadhag, President, K Allan Consulting

Intimidation within the gym is a combination of design elements, equipment selection, and a lack of knowledge by prospective members/guests. One of the most effective ways to overcome the intimidation factor associated with fitness centers is to offer exceptional customer service by creating a "personal experience" for each guest that walks into the fitness center. This concept, used for years in the spa industry, has gained popularity with the increase in spa services offered in the hotel setting. This integration of spa and fitness services has resulted in a much higher level of customer satisfaction within the fitness center that hotel guests expect regardless of whether or not your hotel offers spa services.

Spas are typically thought of as places to enhance personal well-being in relation to the mind, body, and spirit. Although there are many facets to the spa experience there are only a handful that can be incorporated into the stand alone fitness center. One obvious similarity is the concept of wellness in everyday life. This is the easiest and most effective component to integrate into the hotel fitness center from the simple fact that exercise serves as the cornerstone to a healthy lifestyle.

What separates the new spa wellness philosophy with the outdated hotel fitness center and their selection of weight and cardiovascular equipment? It's based on the transition from fitness to wellness and the additional healthy lifestyle components. Now, to appeal to a much larger guest demographic hotel fitness centers must incorporate these wellness philosophies with other spa-like principles including similar levels of ambiance, exceptional customer service, and added amenities to create the "personal experience" within the gym many have become accustomed to in the spa.

When you think of spa-like services you are encompassing the entire workout experience from the moment the guest inquires about the hotel fitness center. A well though out wellness philosophy is key in defining your hotel fitness center throughout the entire workout experience and will help in the early phases of the design process where decisions must be made based upon these factors. Procurement of fitness equipment and accessories, interior design elements and color schemes, lighting and A/V installation are all decisions faced by the design team affected by this philosophy. In addition to helping in the design phase this theme can be carried out throughout your marketing material and within the fitness center to promote the wellness component thus attracting those guests interested in living this healthy, active lifestyle.

The wellness component consists of activities and informative material for both inside and out of the fitness center. Outdoor activities serve to connect the individual with nature enhancing the mind/body experience and can include group classes such as water aerobics, meditation, yoga, and recreational outings. Literature associated with this can include schedules, class descriptions, and maps for local hiking/running trails. Additional literature promoting wellness within the hotel can include other items such as a guide for healthy eating within the hotel. Obvious wellness components within the fitness center include such things as strength training, cardiovascular training, stretching, and balance/body awareness, all promoted by offering a wide variety of fitness equipment and accessories as well as instructions on their usage. If the fitness center is staffed then qualified, certified instructor can guide your guests through the process. If the facility is non-staffed then a variety of workouts with descriptions of each exercise can be created for guests to follow specific to their needs.

Creating a spa-like ambience within the hotel fitness center is another important component to incorporate into the physical plant. This ambiance is defined through the senses of sight, sound, and smell and to a lesser extent touch and taste. Controlling the environment with proper background sound through light music and integrating some sort of wireless headphone system for the televisions or personal screens enhances the auditory experience. Using proper lighting with the incorporation of natural lights through windows and skylights with views allows a connection with nature. Proper facility maintenance through regular cleaning combined with a light aromatic scent enhances the olfactory experience. Regular cleaning also keeps surfaces and equipment free of bacteria and clean to the touch. Finally, offering a lightly flavored water or fresh fruit, often found in the spa setting, appeases the sense of taste.

Customer service is the one of the major components often overlooked in the hotel fitness center. Hotels with combined spa's/fitness centers and the larger staffed fitness centers obviously have the advantage of offering customer service with full-time staff on hand but even that needs to be monitored. Staff members involved in the fitness center need to be fully-trained in all aspects of operation including equipment function to offer the best customer service. Guests should always be treated with a warm smile, proper direction and instructions in terms of exercise, and appreciation. For non-staffed facilities this area can be somewhat difficult to maintain but not impossible. Front desk personnel can be trained on basic equipment usage and exercise charts/cards can be created to guide guests through the process as a supplement. It is important that a certain level of customer service extends to additional staff members who may be inside the fitness center including the repair/maintenance, janitorial, and outside trainers since they are a direct reflection of your hotel.

More and more hotels are offering spa-like amenities as an added feature in their fitness centers. Many of these are traditional components taken to the next level. Water fountains are being replaced with bottled water and/or flavored water. Regular workout towels are being replaced with larger count spa towels with the addition of smaller "refreshing" towels chilled after soaked in a mixture of water and lemon. A large selection of current reading material, both newspapers and magazines are at the guest's disposal. Fresh fruit is available for guests to take with them after exercising. All these components, be it small individually, combine to increase the overall spa experience.

The hotel fitness center experience has transformed and a higher level of guest expectations must be met. This trend, partially due to increased popularity of the hotel spa, has given rise to a new breed of fitness centers with a broader wellness component, spa-like ambiance, and higher levels of customer service. Gyms once promoting strength training and cardiovascular exercise must now include the spa principles of mind, body, and spirit. The result - travelers are more and more demanding when it comes to their workout experience. Incorporating basic spa-like principles and staying on top of the daily operations will ensure your hotel fitness center meets the demands of the current trends.

Kurt Broadhag has over 16 years of experience in personal training and gym design. He is president of K Allan Consulting, a firm specializing in health club design and management. K Allan Consulting works in unison with property owners, architects, and interior designers to address fitness solutions and develop functional workout environments. The company specializes in two-dimensional and three-dimensional fitness facility renderings, consulting from conceptual design to final installation. Kurt obtained his LEED AP certification and has authored articles on green fitness center design. Mr. Broadhag can be contacted at 310-601-7768 or kbroadhag@kallanconsulting.com Extended Bio...

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