Hotel Partnerships with Fitness Pros Can Mean a Healthy Bottom Line for Group Business

By Julie Catalano | June 7, 2013 | Hospitality Marketing

cvent_westinworkout_shanepost_may2013According to a recent report in Hotel Business Review, the hospitality industry could be missing out on lucrative opportunities to promote their fitness offerings, adding that “health and fitness professionals will be searching for new ways to deliver their services” to people not signed up for their programs (Source: hotelexecutive.com).

How can hotels tap into this huge market? By connecting fitness pros directly to their hotel guests―specifically groups such as executive retreats, top management incentive travel, and the ever-robust wedding market―and keeping those guests on site thanks to customized exercise, weight loss, nutrition and counseling programs offered by third party fitness companies.

This describes to a T the new partnership between New York-based Shane Diet & Fitness Resorts and the Westin La Cantera Hill Country Resort in San Antonio, Texas. Shane’s founder and owner Ziporah Janowski says the adults-only program is about “re-educating people on living a healthy lifestyle, immersing them in learning and living nutrition and fitness with an overlay of behavior coaching so that there’s a real change in habits.” The Texas team consists of program director, fitness and behavior coaches, registered dietitians and fashion stylists. They in turn market these services to prospective clients using the Westin property as their base for all Shane-related activities, classes, meals, teambuilding, and accommodations. 

Westin La Cantera’s Sales Manager Deann Wallen says she knew from the beginning that Shane was “a perfect match for us and the Westin’s focus on wellness, including our Superfoods healthful menu items.” The program enjoys a dedicated chef who oversees staff to learn the four-week rotating menu that is portion controlled and adaptable to any special food intolerances or preferences.   

They both have their eyes on promoting the corporate wellness aspect to companies, even though the groups themselves will likely be small. Janowski describes an “executive energizer” program that gives takeaway tools to mid- and top-level managers. This in turn creates the potential for becoming a permanent part of a company’s corporate wellness efforts by keeping groups constantly cycling through the Shane program. Wallen describes it as “fantastic base business that’s here every day.”

Wallen offers tips for properties considering a similar partnership: 

Evaluate your location. “Resorts are probably better suited to this than downtown hotels,” says Wallen, with amenities such as heated pools, walking trails, luxury spas, and outdoor activities like tennis or golf. The Biggest Loser Resorts, for example―based on the hit television show―are located in Utah, Malibu, Niagara (NY) and Chicago, and capitalize on on mountain hikes, private lakes, bike trails, and the like. 

Make the commitment. This isn’t a limited promo or one-off endeavor. Both Shane and Westin expect their partnership to endure.  A big plus, says Wallen, is having the equivalent of “a year-round meeting planner who educates us on their guests, their needs, likes and dislikes. It’s great to have a relationship like that with a client and understand what their expectations are.” 

Expect growing pains. This was unlike anything the Westin had ever done before, says Wallen, who says it took “several months” to hammer out the details of this “group within a group” concept. “I would say to keep an open mind about the structure. We struggled with dedicating meeting space to Shane without a large number of guaranteed guest rooms on the books.” They got around the rooms-to-space ratio by teaming up with a nearby freestanding fitness facility in case of a resort buyout or large group. “That’s what I mean by keeping an open mind.” 

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