How Can Hotels Compete with Commercial Gyms?

What do you think of when you imagine a hotel gym? A couple of treadmills? An exercise bike? A few...

What do you think of when you imagine a hotel gym?

A couple of treadmills? An exercise bike? A few dumbbells and a yoga mat? Maybe not even that. Unless you’re staying somewhere high-end, then they can feel uninspired and a little underwhelming. But something is better than nothing, right?

By providing even a limited equipment range, the hotel can still add ‘a gym’ to the facilities section of its website. It’s still providing a space and the equipment to exercise without investing vast amounts of money in something that many guests won’t even use, let alone type into a booking engine when searching for somewhere to stay. 

Gyms just aren’t as important to some guests as other hotel extras like restaurants, swimming pools, free wifi, or breakfast.

But that is changing.

And hotels are ideally placed to capitalise on growing health and wellness trends, providing an environment where guests want to exercise and, therefore, making it far more likely that a person will book a room. Gyms can become an asset to the hotel rather than an afterthought. 

Why would hotel gyms want to compete with commercial ones?

Many people will pay more for a gym

According to a survey by, 44% of people are willing to pay extra for a hotel with a gym. When health and wellness is a fundamental lifestyle choice, people aren’t going to put a pin in that just because they’re away from home.

And hotel gyms don’t only have to be for guests, either. Offering memberships to local people will ensure regular income even at times of lower occupancy.

Health Club Management writes that: 

"We’re seeing hotel operators refurbishing their gyms or opening new ones and pointing their marketing firepower at local audiences to sign up consumers as members, bringing them head to head with gym operators." 

According to M8 Group, hotels offering external memberships to 200 people could generate up to £120,000 per annum. 

But not ready to bring in outside memberships..?

Guests are a captive audience 

Hotel guests are already on-site. They're already through the door, so even guests with transferable gym memberships from chain gyms will probably appreciate the convenience of exercising without having to leave the building. On-site breakfast and dinner facilities do something similar for those unwilling or unable to walk to a nearby pub or cafe. People like to opt for the easiest option. 

And whether a person is on business or vacation, time is precious. Even for those people with a transferable membership, using a guest pass will almost always require more effort than simply walking down a corridor and using the hotel’s facilities.  

And let’s not forget the opportunity to improve a guest’s in-room experience. Premium facilities are now adding fitness equipment to individual hotel rooms so guests can exercise privately. For business travellers or parents with young children, an in-room treadmill, indoor cycling bike, yoga mat or dumbbell set is the ultimate convenience.  

RE:GEN bike in a hotel room

Tap into Wellness Tourism 

Business travellers may be more likely to maintain a health or fitness regime because they’re not on holiday. If a hotel venue is near conference halls or facilities, exhibition venues, business parks, airports, ports, or financial centres, then a gym may be enough to convince someone to book it.  

For other hotels, perhaps geared more to the leisure traveller, there’s an opportunity to tap into wellness tourism, which globally will be worth an estimated £1.5 trillion in 2030.  

Adding a new or upgrading an existing gym strengthens the advantage that both business and tourism hotels have: the offer of a complete package — the bed, food, drink, wifi and now, a wellness and workout experience. 

What can hotel gyms learn from commercial ones? 

Design an Inviting and Energising Space

There are more than 7000 commercial gyms and fitness centres in the UK. To stand out and survive in such a competitive market, popular gyms don’t just have the best equipment or the biggest floorspace; they’re places where people want to go and exercise, and that should be the same for hotel gyms. Guests should feel energised and motivated when they walk in, ready to work out. 

Much of this boils down to design: the layout, decor, colour scheme, lighting, flooring, etc. For hotels with limited experience in a fitness fit-out, it may be a good idea to work with a gym design company rather than relying on a general hotel contractor or senior management. For example, you wouldn’t let someone without the relevant design experience plan a commercial kitchen.

Equipment and facilities play a significant role, but it’s about more than just throwing a few premium bikes or treadmills into a room and letting guests have at it. Work within the available space but think about relocating the gym to another part of the hotel if your company hides it in the basement. 

If your gym is in a space without natural light, use mirrors. Commercial gyms use them to create the illusion of light and space (as well as to check form and for selfies) in places where it’s impossible to achieve otherwise.

Make it a Recognisable Part of your Brand

Step into a Pure Gym, David Lloyd, Fitness First, etc., and you’ll probably guess the chain even without catching the name as you walk in. Chain hotels do it too. They have the same or very similar decor, facilities, price points, etc. This doesn’t mean every gym will be the same across the company, but there should be consistency or alignment that’s recognisable to guests. If guests book into a room in Cardiff and use the gym, they should have a realistic expectation of doing the same in Newcastle, London or Glasgow.

This can be useful in marketing your gyms, especially if you encourage guests to tag themselves on social media while exercising. You want people to know, even without an accompanying description, that whether they’re staying in this location or one hundred miles away, there’s consistency across the company.

Use Technology and Software

Both commercial and at-home gyms use technology and software to improve user experience, and hotels can do the same. Take indoor cycling bikes, for example. Smart bikes have embedded technology or accompanying software that sets them apart from traditional upright exercise bikes. Accompanying apps can also record performance analytics or allow users to access on-demand classes and games. According to McCurtin, research and technology are the biggest drivers of gym design and integrating them into their workout centre could give the hotel a USP.

Sustainability is a Growing Gym Trend

Gyms are becoming more sustainable. This primarily reflects how we’re becoming more eco-aware as a society. What’s interesting is that the hotel industry is starting to look towards sustainability too, so why not combine both? Use the gym as part of the brand messaging on eco-awareness. This could be done using LED lighting, electricity-generating indoor bikes, or bamboo eco-flooring, for example. 

We mention electricity-generating indoor bikes because they can capture the power created during a workout and then store it for the hotel to use later. 

Gyms are Moving Towards Experiential Offerings

People want more than just a traditional class or access to specific equipment. They want an experience, and we’re seeing a rise in gyms offering something beyond the conventional exercise class. On its website, IdeaFit explains experiential exercise as ‘something clients look forward to, talk about, and for which they will happily pay premium fees…sound-activated lighting throughout the room, themed props, track lighting, candlelight etc.’. The website goes on to explain class examples that include ‘cycle karaoke, stiletto strength and anti-gravity yoga.’

Obviously, this will be beyond the budget and scope of many hotel gyms, but it’s an interesting insight into what people are looking for when they exercise — something unusual, something fun and engaging.


Gyms often collaborate with relevant sports and fitness brands. This can be a vending machine that stocks protein shake powder or muscle tees. It could be a smoothie bar, supplement or app subscription service. Take advantage of products and services that appeal to your hotel gym users. If your hotel doesn’t have space for a complete gym (or any gym), look at partnering up with a local fitness centre, military boot camp or indoor cycling class. 

Use Guest Data to Build the Best Gym

Hotels have access to a tonne of demographic data. Use it to look at the average guest: their age, interests, budget and lifestyle. You could also ask questions about their gym habits on feedback forms or ask guests when checking in or out. 

Get Good Trainers

Good gyms understand the importance of a good personal trainer. It may be that there’s an option for group classes, especially if you’re a business hotel or one with conference facilities. If that’s not possible at your hotel, then you can substitute a trainer with AI-built workouts, which Energym builds into its app so that at-home and commercial users can exercise efficiently. 


Commercial gyms use memberships to generate income. Hotels can use their gym to make it more likely that a guest will book a room, so a gym can undoubtedly add value to a hotel, and hoteliers can learn a lot about attracting and retaining members from their commercial counterparts.

Interested in generating electricity using indoor cycling bikes in your hotel? Visit our RE:GEN for hotels page 




Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.


Solutions for every setting