Nicholas Barenblatt, Group Marketing Manager for Protea Hotels by Marriott® & African Pride Hotels, shares his insights on hotel guests’demand for greater fitness choices:

People have become far more conscious of the need to take action to improve their health; more than ever, they watch what they eat, exercise regularly, cut out smoking and limit their alcohol intake.  The millennial generation particularly is far more aware of the need to limit the impact of the sorts of diseases that affect their parents – cardiac problems, high cholesterol, diabetes – and they are taking action.

Health-conscious people know that maintaining regimens are core to maintaining fitness levels. There’s little positive effect if one trains hard for one whole day, and then does nothing for three weeks.  Hour-long visits to the gym three times a week – every week – are far more likely to produce the desired results.

But for those who travel regularly – usually for business purposes – the interruption in the fitness routine poses a problem. “This is true for me,” explains Nicholas Barenblatt, Group Marketing Manager for Protea Hotels and African Pride Hotels, a proud member of leading global hotel group Marriott International. “I run and gym regularly so that I remain healthy and balanced, but I find it increasingly difficult to maintain a regular exercise pattern since the need for me to travel for work has become far greater over time.  I find running is a great way to maintain a routine as running gear doesn’t take up much space in one’s suitcase and then one can have the ability to either run in the hotel gym or explore the neighbourhood or city.”

And since all predictions point to business travel being on the rise, Barenblatt’s concerns are likely to be shared by many other travellers in the years ahead.  Given that research indicates that young adults value the fitness options offered by a particular hotel property, counting it in as a significant factor for their selection of hotel stay, the hotel industry is listening.

“We understand the need for guests to be able to continue with their usual fitness regime, even when they’re away from home,” Barenblatt explains. “Traditionally, this has led to hotels providing a small fitness room with gym equipment that’s available for guests to use,” he says.  “These have been around for many years now and they are quite well used in some hotels.

“But, we are finding that there is a demand for other types of exercise options among guests.  Some choose to use the hotel swimming pool for more than just a relaxing time sunbathing; they do their usual swimming exercise routine, often very early in the morning when the leisure users of the pool are not around.”

The industry has moved a lot further in the United States, in particular, and there are now hotel properties that offer organised running circuits with group runs led by a special hotel concierge. Others arrange stand-up paddle board classes, rooftop or waterfront yoga classes, and there is now a move towards providing fitness equipment inside rooms – pilates balls, a training wall – and hotel mini-bars stocked with fresh produce from local farmers’ markets.  In some hotels, running shoes and exercise clothing can be hired, so one doesn’t get caught out if one forgot to pack these items.

“The demand in South Africa is certainly lower than in the US,” Barenblatt comments, “but we have picked up an increase in the number of enquiries relating to exercise options at Protea Hotel and African Pride properties.  In response, new exercise facilities have been established at certain hotels. “The mountain bike centre, the Cog & Sprocket, at the African Pride Mount Grace Country House & Spa in Magaliesburg is a case in point,” says Barenblatt.  “The Arabella Hotel & Spa also offers dedicated routes in the nearby proximity to the estate which are accessible directly from the hotel grounds, and offer a treat for both mountain bike and running enthusiasts.  The Park Runs which are hosted in most cities and larger neighbourhoods have gained a great deal of support from locals and our guests as our hotels actively promote this weekly event to in-house leisure guests who are looking to start their day with a fun 5km run.”

So, while the extent of changes to hotels is more limited in South Africa than in the USA, it is certainly a trend to watch.