Success in the Fitness Industry: Learning from the Hospitality Industry

For Gym Operators

Success in the Fitness Industry: Learning from the Hospitality Industry

The fitness and hospitality industries share many of the same objectives: provide a positive guest experience, entice customers to return to their facility, and offer unique benefits to stand out from the competition. When it comes to customer engagement and satisfaction, here are a few hospitality lessons that club operators can borrow to keep their members happy.

The following is a summarization of an education session from the 2015 IHRSA Convention, produced with full permission from IHRSA. The full-length video is available for purchase at

About the Speaker

Fred Hoffman, M. Ed. is the owner of Fitness Resources Consulting. He is also a well-recognized author and speaker. He is the recipient of the 2007 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year award and certified by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the American College of Sports and Medicine (ACSM). 

State of the Industry

Currently, business and club design is stagnant. We face the ever-present factors of competition, demand and market size. Gyms contend with issues of leadership, operations, design and systems. Most fitness businesses tend to undervalue staff, but staff training is essential for progress and success. Technology can be overwhelming and a heavy financial burden, requiring additional staff and technical resources. In our technological age, you can avoid stagnation by embracing new technologies.

Types of Facilities

There are a variety of fitness facility styles within the industry, which include large, medium and low-cost clubs, as well as luxury and niche boutiques. A myriad of products and services are available within these facilities. Most facilities are full service, but there are some clubs that offer paid services, such as personal training, strength training, cardio or group exercise. Some offer yearly memberships while others operate on a pay-per-class basis. Boutique studios represent niche facilities. 

Borrowing from the Hospitality Industry

Key aspects from the hospitality industry relevant to the fitness industry:

  • Business strategies to achieve present and future success.
  • Hotels tailor their offers to satisfy the customer demand.
  • Millennials preference in travel and hotel design and services.
  • Different methods to attract and engage and create loyalty with members.
  • The importance of social media and mobile technology in strategic planning. 

What Is the Hospitality Industry?

The hospitality industry is comprised of businesses including hotels, resorts, spas, restaurants and theme parks.

Current trends embraced by the hospitality industry include:

  • Mobile technology
  • Millennial recognition
  • Creative marketing
  • Customer experience
  • Innovative design
  • Cloud computing
  • Social media

The hospitality industry recognizes the demand for technology by providing individual charging ports and room reservations with the tap of a button. Millennials expect these options while other demographics appreciate them.

Sustainability Efforts Are Common with Hotels

Most hotels work to be more environmentally responsible and implement green policies. They limit water and energy consumption by promoting environmental and cultural awareness, while still providing a positive experience for both guests and staff.

Mobile Technology

Restaurants and hotels support amenities with apps on smartphones and tablets. Fitness clubs can do this as well. A snack or smoothie bar can be app promoted. Apps can track the progress and fitness habits of your clients, which in turn help you develop specifically targeted services.

Consider an electronic wallet for memberships, products, or smoothie bars within your club.

  • Cloud computing tracks customers’ habits, purchases and activities. Collecting this information will support marketing strategies and specialized offerings. It can enhance security and reliability of payment solutions. Staff can work remotely, providing constant support for members.
  • Social media allows you to initiate and maintain conversations with current and prospective clients, enhancing communication and interaction. An online community helps foster a sense of belonging, generating interest in your facility.
  • Customer service is the most important aspect within the hospitality industry. Enthusiasm, confidence and great service drive success.

Develop brand loyalty through distinct and unique experiences within your facility. Offer top service. Be innovative, find out as much as you can about your clients and anticipate their needs and desires.

Six Takeaways from the Hospitality Industry

  • Innovative and creative offerings, nutrition programs, smoothie and snack bars are all good ways to offer clients new experiences.
  • A relaxed, comfortable, stress free environment is consistent with the hospitality industry environment.
  • Be professional but do not take yourself too seriously. Members like the "wow" moment. Avoid routine offerings, and be creative with your products and services. 
  • Loyalty programs compensate clients for coming a few times during a month. Recognition and appreciation with gifts, such as free massages or coupons for your snack bar, impress members and support a retention program.
  • Ongoing staff training is essential. An informed staff is familiar with modifications in operations and campaigns. Offer training, education and opportunities for growth within the company.
  • Employ forward-thinking design and decor. Be creative and have fun with your space. You do not have to break the bank to be innovative.