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Hilton and Precor Partner to Improve Hotel Fitness Centers

Hilton and Precor partner to improve and expand hotel fitness centers.

Ooh 1106 Ab Yesterday couldn't have been worse. Not only did you have to sit through a long flight - delays and layovers included - you also spent all night tossing and turning in a strange bed in an even stranger city.

Now that the sun has risen on this brand-new day, all you'd like to do is head downstairs for a 30-minute jog. But once you arrive at the dark, dingy oversized storage closet your hotel passes off as a fitness center, you find the two, dilapidated treadmills occupied, three sleepy-eyed guests already lined up behind each machine.

Jodi Sullivan feels your pain. As director of fitness for Hilton Hotels Corp., it's Sullivan's job to remedy such scenarios that take place in any Hilton, Doubletree or Embassy Suites fitness center.

But Sullivan isn't content with constantly putting out fires. Rather, by taking a proactive approach - one that will have her oversee Hilton Hotels Corp.'s upgrade of fitness centers in approximately 600 North American Hilton, Doubletree and Embassy Suites hotels by the end of 2007 - Sullivan hopes to do more than simply meet her guests' fitness needs. "We've realized that fitness centers are extremely important to our guests," she says. "And we really want to provide the ultimate guest experience."

With these fitness center upgrades, Sullivan intends to do much more than simply add a treadmill here or a stepper there. Such measures will no longer suffice. "We don't want to just put new equipment into a room," she says. "We really want to focus on all the factors that go into a fitness center and have the guests walk in there motivated and energized to work out, as if they were at home."

To Sullivan, taking the hotel industry's enduring "home away from home" concept into the fitness center involves incorporating such design elements as bold and vibrant paint colors, indirect lighting and wood-framed mirrors. Of course, it also includes introducing to these spaces state-of-the-art fitness equipment.

To that end, Hilton has partnered with Precor, which will be the hotel's exclusive supplier of cardio and strength equipment and exercise entertainment systems. In fact, for the first time in company history Hilton's fitness centers are to be branded, each prominently bearing the Precor name.

Rick Caro, president of Management Vision, a New York-based health club consultancy, says that such arrangements have been tested abroad, with promising results. "It's not uncommon to see that kind of branding relationship in Europe. The precedent has been set," he says. "When guests can use equipment familiar to them, when they can use national brands, they're not forced to compromise."

Detailed, separate standards have been established for the three Hilton chains' fitness areas; essentially, the number of rooms in each hotel property will dictate the square footage of its fitness center, and thus, the number of machines placed there.

In addition, areas traditionally considered afterthoughts are now being given careful attention. Plenty of room will be provided for core and balance training, and each fitness center will be equipped with medicine and stability balls, resistance bands, exercise tubing, weighted body bars, and stretch mats and benches.

Indeed, it seems as if every detail has been addressed, except one. Considering the company's significant capital investment, will Hilton do like several other well-known hotel chains and levy nominal daily charges, or "resort fees," to guests for use of its hotels' fitness centers? "The company is still weighing those options," says Kendra Wilson, director of communications for the Hilton Family of Hotels. "But the main point is that it's all about consistency and making people feel good when they're in our hotels working out."

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