By Robert McGarvey
Do you use hotel gyms?
The question is not rhetorical. Those who want should use the comments field to tell their experience of hotel gyms because, frankly, I want to put on the table eliminating them. Personally I don’t use them, can’t say I have in several decades, and I also don’t know anybody who does.
There are some data points that say I’m nuts – more on them imminently – but my reality is that those who exercise on the road walk around town, or jog, some go to yoga studios, a few diehards belong to home gyms that give them reciprocal use of out of town gyms and that is where they go.
In the latter case, I am assuming they go to a dedicated gym because, judging by the hotel gyms I have looked at in recent years, most seem modestly equipped, with far from the latest gear, and often very small. That makes sense. Hoteliers pinch pennies where they can and if no one is squawking about gyms, they won’t put money into them.
Then too, marketing firm MMGY Global said that in a recent survey it found profound evidence of lack of interest in fitness on the road. Here’s its data:
- 57% of business travelers work out less when they’re on the road
- 59% of business travelers eat less healthy
- 47% sleep less
Those numbers very much sync with what I hear from fellow travelers. A small percentage maintain a real fitness regimen on the road – personally I try and usually succeed in walking 10,000+ steps daily when traveling which is surprisingly easy when walking in airports, in Las Vegas convention hotels, and around Manhattan and San Francisco. Word of advice: use a step counter (apps are standard on both iPhones and Androids). You may be shocked to see how many steps you log in a normal business travel day, especially days when you are in airports.
And yet there is contrary data that say we love our hotel gyms. For instance, MMGY Global found that nearly half of millennials put a high priority on good fitness options when picking a hotel. About a third of Gen Xers said likewise. Just one Baby Boomer in four thought this way. So there ae generation differences indeed but if you believe those numbers we very much want to preserve hotel gyms.
A 2016 survey by American Express uncovered similar data. Some 49% of millennials, said Amex, pegged a fitness center as one of a hotel’s most important features.
Meantime, lobbying group AHLA said that 84% of hotels now offer some kind of fitness center.
Are they in fact any good? Certainly some hotel gyms are dazzlers but what I have heard from fellow travelers, and have frequently read in reviews posted to TripAdvisor and Yelp, is that a lot of hotel gyms are genuinely mediocre.
Then, too, just maybe the numbers – showing real interest in hotel gyms – don’t add up. Data from the Cornell hotel school suggested that – just maybe – we express more interest in hotel gyms than is reflected in our actual use. Said Cornell researchers: “Of particular interest, the study also found that guests greatly overestimated the likelihood that they would use the hotels’ amenities.”
That Cornell study found stunning discrepancies between our words and our deeds when it comes to hotel gyms. On average 46% of us say we expect to use hotel gyms. Just 22% do.
Travel & Leisure covered the report in a story headlined: Didn’t Make It to the Hotel Gym? You Aren’t the Only One
It twisted the knife: “Hotel fitness centers are a
Those numbers prompted a Conde Nast Traveler story titled: “Is the Hotel Gym Dead?”
Bottomline: sure, there are polls that say we plan to use the hotel gym – but very probably you’ll find us at our desks doing email, or maybe in the hotel bar. Where we won’t be, I believe, is in the hotel gym.
Does this mean it is time to think, hard, about closing hotel gyms?
My vote: yep.
Which brings us to the money question: Do you use a hotel gym?
Would you pick one hotel over another because of its gym?
I just don’t see it mattering that much, except to those for whom it really matters and quite probably in my experience they have already made their own plans which do not necessarily involve the hotel where they are staying.