Are hotel gyms the most overrated amenity in hospitality?
Hotels offer amenities like gyms in an effort to attract guests and boost revenue, but are these amenities worth the cost? In a recent study published in February by the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research, authors Chekitan Dev, Rebecca Hamilton, and Roland Rust examine the return on investment for different amenities at 33 properties from six of a single hotel corporation’s brands. The research covered 50 amenities, and the published study gives the results for three of them: hotel gyms, wifi, and bottled water.
The study finds that 46 percent of guests say they intend to use a hotel gym before their stay, but just 22 percent report having used the gym when surveyed after their visit. And unlike other factors such as room price and location, a hotel gym does not sway guests’ choice to visit a hotel for the first time. It also does not make guests much more likely to return to the hotel in the future. Comparing these results with the upfront costs of installing a gym and the ongoing costs of maintaining it, the authors conclude that a hotel gym generally has a low return on investment.
However, the authors note that this analysis considers the effect of a gym for one year only. When they expand the analysis to cover a longer time period, they find that a gym has a better rate of return for three of the brands in the study. Thus, it seems that whether a gym is a good investment depends on the hotel and what its guests are seeking. The authors suggest that for some brands, partnering with a nearby gym or offering guests fitness equipment on-demand in their rooms might be better options than investing in a gym.
The study finds that in-room internet access produces a positive return on investment for five of the six brands. Although internet access didn’t do much to draw repeat visitors, it did factor into the decision to visit a hotel for the first time.
“Given its effect of attracting new guests, we expect free internet service in hotel rooms – which most readers will observe is scarcer as you move up the segment scale – to become standard at upper upscale and luxury properties,” the authors write.
In-room bottled water also had a positive return on investment for five of the six brands studied. The authors write that “bottled water had only a weak effect on initial choice, but a significant effect on return visits.” Although guests didn’t choose a hotel based on the availability of bottled water, the authors suggest that once guests arrive, they may view the bottled water as a nice surprise and form a good impression of the hotel, making them more likely to come back for future visits.
Looking at all fifty amenities, the authors find that for most amenities, the percentage of guests who actually use the feature is lower than the percentage to say they plan to use it. “From a practical perspective, this finding underscores the importance of observing guests’ actual use of amenities before deciding to make them standard rather than relying only on surveys of guests’ desire for and intent to use the amenities,” the authors write.