Stop kidding yourself. You’re not going to use the hotel gym

Lone road warrior
Lone road warrior
Image: Reuters/Kacper Pempel
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Hotels are racing to build fancy gyms for their guests—but that may be an exercise in futility.

Fewer than half of hotel guests who say they planned on using a hotel’s fitness center actually use property’s gym during their stay, according to a new survey on hotel amenities by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.

Over eight weeks, researchers polled 782 hotel guests of 33 properties run by a major, unnamed hotel chain before and after their hotel stays. They were asked about a variety amenities including fitness center use, free bottled water, and in-room Wi-Fi.

Respondents used all three amenities less than they intended but they flaked out the most on their workouts. Forty-six percent of respondents said they would use the gym but only 22% actually did, the survey found.

The goal of the survey was to determine hotels’ return on investment for providing certain amenities. The value of a fitness centers appeared to come in at the low end, especially considering they are “relatively expensive to install and can incur somewhat higher maintenance costs for replacing broken equipment, along with modest per-use costs for keeping the equipment clean and providing towels and drinking water,” said the researchers.

For decades, hotel gyms have been an afterthought and those small, unwelcoming rooms with fluorescent lights and one treadmill facing the wall have been generally unloved. But now large US hotel chains are actively using fitness centers to court health-conscious road warriors, as competition grows from rival properties and home-sharing sites like Airbnb.

Hyatt, for example, last month announced it was acquiring wellness hotel and spa operator Miraval Group. Marriott last year opened a lab hotel where it tests out new fitness offerings such as on-demand video classes on guests. Westin is so eager to make exercise easy for guests that it rents out New Balance clothing, though it notes that “socks are yours to keep.” Luxury gym chain Equinox says it plans to open its first hotel in New York by 2019.

But if the survey is any indication, hotels may be overestimating their guests’ motivation.