Gone are the days of dusty treadmills and elliptical machines along with a few medicine balls and yoga mats combined in small spaces called “fitness centers”. Many of today’s vacationers as well as business travelers not only seek fitness, they have come to expect it in hotels. With a little creativity, developing low-cost fitness activities or high impact training facilities can improve the hotel’s fitness profile and possibly your bottom line. Although this article centered on Florida hotels, many hotels across the globe are catering to the wellness and fitness guests have come to expect. Hotel Online, Caitlin Dineen and Orlando Sentinel, give a glimpse into the trend of wellness and hotels.
March 25–Central Florida hoteliers know it’s no longer good enough for a hotel to have a sterile gym facility with two or three treadmills and a reclining bike.
Now, guests have dozens of opportunities to break a sweat — intentionally, not just from the Florida heat — when vacationing or coming to Orlando for a business trip.
“Personally, I feel people are more health-conscious,” said Jeff Swirsky, general manager of Floridays Resort Orlando. “They’re more into the fitness lifestyle.”
Swirsky’s International Drive property is just one of several that are revamping and expanding health and wellness programs to entice guests looking to stay fit.
According to a survey from the American Hotel & Lodging Association, hotels have been picking up on the trend for the last decade. In the organization’s most recent survey of popular amenities and guest services, 84 percent of the more than 9,600 respondents in 2014 said they have an on-site exercise room or fitness facility. That’s up from 63 percent in 2004.
In Metro Orlando, Harris Rosen’s properties have been focused on health and fitness, a personal passion of his, for more than two decades.
“We do it simply because it’s the right thing to do,” said Rosen, who had a lap pool built at his Rosen Shingle Creek property to ensure he has a place to swim his daily 50 laps when his local YMCA is closed.
Rosen also worked with executive chef Jorge Oliviera and created “Rosen’s Perfect Pizza,” which launched in 2009. The low-sodium, honey wheat crust pizza is topped with low-fat cheese, tomato sauce and turkey pepperoni.
Since first appearing at his properties, about 3.2 million slices have been sold, according to hotel leaders.
Another healthy offering is “Rosen’s Perfect Bars,” with flavors like peanut butter & cranberry; mango yogurt; and bananas Foster. They’re sold at catered events and in delis at Rosen Shingle Creek and Rosen Plaza.
Martin Bonventre, director of food & beverage at Shingle Creek, said gone are the days of derailing healthy habits when you leave your home.
“When people go on vacation, it was always … that was your time to let loose and relax a little bit,” said Bonventre. “And I think a lot of those trends have gone away.”
He said guest offerings snowballed from the wellness programs, including an on-site medical center he built for his staff.
“From that initial concept of doing it ourselves, I think everything else has kind of fallen into place,” said Rosen. “If we can have our own physicians, if we can have our own wellness and fitness facility … then why can’t we also do good things for our guests?”
After seeing a demand for organized classes open to both guests and locals, the B Resort & Spa started offering weekly Reiki and meditation classes. The hour-long classes, which cost $15 per session, were launched about two weeks ago, said Beny Koe, the resort’s director of spa & wellness.
“I think people are, right now, they are just busy all the time,” said Koe. “Even on their phones and everything; it can be very unhealthy.”
Reiki is a Japanese healing technique that promotes moving a healthy “energy flow within the body,” said Koe. Leaders at the B property are also arranging tennis classes.
Koe thinks more Central Florida hotels will soon make changes if they haven’t already done so.
“There are more and more hotels seeing this as an important part of their service that they can provide to their guests,” he said.
With Florida’s reputation for perpetual sunshine, hoteliers are also seeing a growing need to have access to outdoor activities.
“More and more people will ask about running facilitated on the outside and where do we recommend jogging,” said Swirsky.
Swirsky, with nearly 30 years in the industry, said this isn’t the first time maintaining a healthy lifestyle when away from home has been on a traveler’s brain. It was all the rage decades ago, he said, at the height of the exercise-tape era when Jane Fonda made bright-colored unitards and leg warmers the uniform for home workouts.
“This has been a trend,” he said. “It’s gone back and forth, quite honestly.”
The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, which opened less than two years ago, was built with health and wellness in mind, including a turfed “movement lawn” built outside specifically for classes.
Derek Hofmann, the resort’s director of spa and fitness, said hotels used to view gyms as a basic amenity instead of a required service.
In additional to a 4,500-square-foot gym facility, the Four Seasons offers 13 weekly fitness classes, including yoga, ab attack, group cycling, power flex and yogalates, a combination of yoga and pilates.
Most recently, he charted and led two 5K runs around the property.
Hofmann said he will also orchestrate fitness classes on demand when requested by groups coming to the hotel.
“The fact that the appetites are out there … I really like this,” said Hofmann, a 17-year veteran of the spa world. “It’s one of the things that get me going.”
Taking health a step further, the Four Seasons is prepared to outfit guests who forgot their running shoes at home, said Hofmann. The resort keeps a full selection of shoes, socks, shorts and shirts for guests who want to borrow them.
Hofmann said he thinks the hotel industry will continue to update health programs to guests, but will eventually get into a rhythm of maintenance.
“I think every market will be about refining,” he said. “Nobody rests on their merits once they’ve done a good job.”