Starwood was a pioneer 17 years ago when it introduced “Westin Workout Powered By Reebok.” They’d make workout clothes available to guests, so you wouldn’t have to pack them but could still get exercise in. And they put exercise equipment in some rooms, too.
The idea was that a hotel doesn’t just give you a place to sleep, and maybe stay nourished, but helps you live your active lifestyle and be ready for the day with peak performance. The trend towards hotels offering a ‘wellness’ or lifestyle experience has only grown since then.
Westin replaced Reebok with New Balance a decade ago, and of course Starwood was acquired by Marriott, and the pandemic hit. Westin’s New Balance partnership has ended and so has the Westin offer to lend guests workout gear. A Marriott spokesperson tells me, “We’ve concluded our successful partnership with New Balance and our Gear Lending Program is currently on pause given the current operating environment.”
I take ‘the current operating environment’ to mean ‘cost cutting due to low revenue’ rather than precautionary due to Covid. Hotels are perfectly capable of sanitizing clothing, they sanitize rooms every day. It’s not clear though whose costs are at issue, the property’s or New Balance’s.
I was tipped to this by a reader who booked a treadmill room at an airport Westin after a missed connection forced them to overnight.
As I had no clothes besides a suit, I asked to get the running shoes, shorts and shirt. I was in one of the workout rooms with a treadmill. They had some clothes remaining and a brand new pair of shoes that they gave me as a gift to keep because since the program ended.
Many guests are traveling because they have to, and perhaps aren’t making decisions based on which properties help them be at peak performance, although this reader specifically chose the room they did to get some exercise in.
Hotels are going to need to quickly pivot back to being more than place where people sleep or they’ll quickly have a real problem competing against Airbnb.
DoorDash and UberEats make it easy to get food when staying at an Airbnb, so food and beverage may not be as important for some hotels going forward. But offering a place to work out, and making it convenient to do so, is an easy differentiator with a private home or apartment. Business travelers that want to stay healthy on the road, keeping up their workout routine, who want their room cleaned every day or that want healthy eating options or a seat at a bar are going to choose a hotel if those things are on offer.