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The newest extra for serious travelers: A mini-gym inside your hotel room

  • More than one hotel chain is trying gym equipment inside guest rooms
  • Hilton charges an extra $45 a night for an in-room fitness package
  • Fitness brands like the exposure to thousands of potential customers

Getting out of bed to exercise can be tough, especially when you're on the road. But what if your bed were right next to a gym? That is exactly what the Hilton Hotel group is banking on. The company is test-driving a new room that includes a miniature version of a fully-equipped gym.

For a premium of $45.00 per night, guests can reserve the "Five Feet to Fitness" package, which is a normal-sized room with a gym on one side, where the carpet ends. The cost is about the same as one class at a boutique fitness studio, like SoulCycle.

In the test room at Hilton's McLean, Virginia, property, on a sound-proof, wood-laminate floor, stands a large metal "bay" that holds sandbags, weight balls, a yoga mat, foam roller, Bosu ball, TRX training system and various other small pieces of workout paraphernalia. In the center of the bay is a screen with on-demand videos using and demonstrating the equipment.

"We have always wanted to do a room that was built around movement and mindfulness," said Ryan Crabbe, senior director of Global Wellness for Hilton. "Travelers are more and more interested in wellness trends and maintaining those routines and activities on the road, and we wanted to give them a room that did that."

Source: Hilton

The room also has a stationary bicycle for cardio and a meditation chair for mindfulness. The space is compact, but the options are wide — 11 types of activities and programs. After testing a yoga and cardio room at the Tysons Corner Hilton three years ago, the feedback from guests was that they wanted more.

"They love the convenience, they love the fact they didn't have to worry about going down to the fitness center and worrying about capacity issues," said Crabbe.

What guests are saying

Downstairs at the McLean hotel's regular fitness center, where a long row of treadmills and ellipticals faces an indoor pool, and about a dozen varied weight machines and dumbbells line the opposite wall, Jack Brennan was doing crunches on a medicine ball. At around 11:30 in the morning, he was the only one there. Brennan said he travels a lot and always uses the hotel gym. Would he pay more to exercise in his room?

"No, absolutely not, because I can get it all here. Why would I pay more to have it five steps away?" said Brennan.

Pat and Jake Gosa are retired and also travel extensively. Both exercise regularly and both were intrigued by the gym-in-the-room concept.

"I do a series of stretches before I ever walk out of the room, so for me that would be very convenient," said Pat.

The Gosas like the concept, but only if it doesn't sacrifice the usual hotel room amenities.

"I would try it so as long as the room was comfortable and met all the reasons you stay in a hotel," said Jake. "I don't want to be stumbling over gym equipment."

They were also concerned about cleanliness and smell. The fitness room does have a special air filtration system, and the cleaning staff has received special training for the equipment.

Opportunity for fitness brands

The fitness competition in the hospitality sector is only heating up. Westin recently announced a partnership with Peloton, the interactive, social cycling platform. Westin has already added the stationary bicycles to 50 of its properties in the U.S., and not only to its gyms but also to some guest rooms.

"Hotels are looking for a way to differentiate themselves," said John Foley, CEO of Peloton. "More people see fitness as part of their vacation. You don't want to go backwards when you're on the beach, you want to go forward."

Peloton is exclusive with Westin for six months, but Foley clearly expects to expand the reach to other hotels around the world.

"Over time, we'll see how it goes," he said, adding that the Westin Pelotons were already "oversubscribed."

The opportunity for fitness brands to capitalize on visibility at hotels is vast. Both equipment and digital video makers can introduce themselves to thousands of potential customers from around the world. Hilton's fitness rooms cost the hotel franchise owners upwards of $12,000 each to implement, but it should take only about a year to see a return on the investment, according to Crabbe. So far they are being offered in Hilton, Doubletree and Curio brands, but could move to other, lower-priced properties.

"We have brands like Hilton Garden Inn, Embassy Suites and extended stay that have already told us their customers are hungry for this, so all of that stuff is currently being designed and researched," said Crabbe.

The room may be small, but the opportunity is not. As the global fitness craze expands and active baby boomers begin their years of retirement travel, more hotels will likely find more innovative ways to work in a workout.