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Forget mints—here’s why boutique fitness is the best amenity hotels are now offering


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Photo: Instagram/@becdonlan
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When it comes to booking a hotel, cost and location are always top things to consider. But for a growing number of healthy travelers, there’s another determining factor that’s helping them decide where to lay their heads while they’re away from home—and no, I’m not talking about pillow mints.

“More recently, I’ve been choosing the hotels I stay in based on their fitness offerings, a lot of which include partnerships with local boutique studios,” says Kellie Shoten, vice president of marketing for the fashion brand Nicole Miller. Last year, she took 57 flights, and wouldn’t board a single gangway without sneakers in tow and a studio she was looking forward to checking out upon arrival. Seat preference? Negotiable. Keeping up with her 6 days-a-week workout routine? Not so much. “I find it’s way easier to adjust to different time zones and keep my energy up while traveling when I’m staying active on the go,” she says.

Shoten’s hardly alone, as indicated by the global wellness-tourism industry generating an estimated $563.2 billion in 2015—a number that’s only projected to grow. More and more, travelers are taking fitness, healthy eating, and mindfulness into consideration as they book their travel plans, both for business and pleasure. And hospitality brands are taking notice. 

Scroll down to see the cool ways hotels are starting to bring boutique fitness to their guests and what it might mean next time you travel.

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Offering more than turn down service and tiny shampoos

It’s hard to maintain healthy habits while traveling—but not impossible. And it’s become exponentially easier in recent years as hotels (both mainstream and boutique) have started offering more wellness amenities to their rosters. For example, Westin enables travelers to hit the town running (literally) with one of its running concierges. Even Hotels touts a 360-degree approach to wellness, including everything from in-room foam rollers and yoga blocks to healthy meal options like smoothies and Mediterranean hummus boards. And then there’s Equinox, which grabbed headlines in 2015 when it announced hotel expansion plans and the launching of a hospitality brand intended for health conscious travelers. 

The James Hotels recently partnered with spiritual guru Ruby Warrington of The Numinous for in-room guest programming aimed to help them find balance. Called Four Bodies Wellness, guests can sweat with Aerospace co-founder Michael Olagjide Jr., find some Zen with Khajak Keledjian, founder of Inscape meditation studio, or tackle Kundalini yoga with Guru Jagat—just by turning on their televisions.

“Hotels are seeking creative ways to drive reservations,” says JH McNierney, Co-Founder and President of Swerve Fitness, a team-based cycling studio in New York City. He says that when W Hotels approached him about a partnership, it was a no-brainer. Now, guests who book rooms at any of the W’s in Manhattan have the option to purchase a Fuel Package, which includes unlimited rides at Swerve studios during their stay, plus a swag bag. 

“By offering a highly specialized, premium, boutique fitness experience, a hotel sets itself apart,” says McNierney. (Also tip for locals: McNierney says anyone with a Swerve membership can snag VIP rates at the W Hotels rooms and bars. Score.)

“By offering a highly specialized, premium, boutique fitness experience, a hotel sets itself apart.” —JH McNierney, Swerve co-founder and president

And it’s not just studio founders who are being approached by hospitality groups—plenty of trainers with cult followings are starting to see hotels (not just studios or streaming platforms) as potential ways to connect with the sweaty masses. Kara Liotta, the creative director for Flybarre, had zero hesitation when the brand 1 Hotels, which created the Mind & Movement programming at its South Beach location, asked her to be a part of its New York City initiative. She now teaches a 60-minute athletic yoga flow class regularly, combining Vinyasa yoga and bodyweight exercises, for a sweat-dripping workout.

“The merging of fitness and hotels works so well because it brings an element of people’s daily routines directly to them while they’re away from home and generally off their typical schedules,” she says. “It’s easier now than ever to prioritize your health and wellness goals at the same time.”

For Bec Donlan, founder of Sweat with Bec, getting her butt-sculpting method into hotels was a major goal. After taking a personal staycation at Hotel Americano, she reached out to their team about creating in-room content for their guests. Now her signature booty bands are available in the mini bar in each hotel room along with custom digital workouts.

“I found that my clients were training really intensely for four or five days, but then business travel would throw it all off. They’d say they ‘didn’t have time,’” Donlan says. “So I developed a 20-minute workout that anyone can do between meetings in their hotel room. You don’t even have to go to the gym.” Though, as more hotels start designing their fitness facilities to have some seriously epic views, you might not be able to resist. 

And if you want to DIY your own healthy hotel experience, take the advice of these wellness pros on what to pack to turn your room into a self-care sanctuary or how to get your workout in on the road

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