Consumers have long accepted that getting on a plane or travelling for work inevitably involves a lot of sitting down and less-than-healthy meals. But according to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) 2017 Business Traveler Sentiment Index Global Report, 22 per cent of UK business travellers say that poorer on-the-road eating habits make them want to exercise while travelling.
Indeed, from business travellers and tourists to hardcore athletes, consumers are yearning for convenient services and on-the-go fitness support to help them make the best use of their time in transit. In fact, the GBTA reports that 41 per cent of millennials say they would be more likely to continue their workout schedules on the road if they felt they had access to the equipment required to do so.
In response to this growing appetite, airports and airlines are increasingly developing strategic facilities and services that allow passengers to use their travel time to exercise and improve their overall health. It’s a move that’s led to some extremely innovative ideas in this space and something that the health and fitness industry is now capitalising on.
In the US, start-up Roam Fitness opened what it claims to be the first public-facing post-security airport fitness centre in early 2017. The gym, which includes shower facilities, is based at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and is available to members on a daily, monthly or yearly basis. The fully serviced gym facility includes fitness kit and equipment hire from Canadian athletic clothing brand LuluLemon and Brooks Running Shoes. Alternatively, customers can vacuum-seal their own kit post-workout to avoid emitting odours within their luggage. Most importantly, the gym features departure screens and alerts to ensure flights are not missed.
Closer to home, London’s Heathrow Airport has announced plans to launch FlyFit – a gym and wellness studio located in the airport’s Terminal 2 (see HCM August, p14). Offering indoor cycling, yoga and meditation classes, it will also provide rental workout kits, showers and healthy food options for travellers looking to maximise their health while waiting for connecting flights.
Airlines are also getting involved, with UAE’s national airline Etihad offering its first-class or premium-grade passengers departing from Abu Dhabi a luxury gym experience in its new First Class Lounge, complete with showers and towel hire.
Taking in-transit fitness one step further, some companies have moved beyond the airport and are focused on in-flight fitness options.
For example, US-based global aeroplane manufacturer Airbus has teamed up with sportswear brand Reebok and interactive indoor cycling company Peloton to develop fitness pods for its new A3 Transpose modular plane concept. The pods will contain Peloton fitness bikes and gym equipment, allowing passengers to fit in a workout during their flight. Airbus is also currently developing ways to add Imax projectors to the module walls to create the effect of cycling outdoors.
Meanwhile, Russian aviation company Sukhoi Civil Aircraft has developed an aircraft catering specifically for athletes. Launching at the end of 2017, the 100-seat SportJet will be split into zones that include fitness equipment, massage chairs for sports injuries, chairs with in-built sensors that monitor heart rate and oxygen levels, and a toilet containing in-built hydration sensors.
There are simpler approaches. Developed in collaboration with players from German football team Bayern Munich, Lufthansa has created a series of short clips entitled Flyrobic to demonstrate how passengers can exercise while in their seats to promote blood flow.
Enabling individuals to maintain their wellbeing regimes in transit doesn’t just extend to fitness. A number of travel operators – especially airports – are enhancing modern travel with practical and calming initiatives for leveraging sedentary wait times and reducing unwanted noise.
Airline Cathay Pacific’s lounge at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport has installed Shiraz Solo Chairs, which feature partitions for privacy and soft-lit reading lamps. The use of warm, natural materials such as wood and stone soften acoustics, while the lamps mimic the experience of sitting in a living room.
In the future, ambient décor and material and colour choice will play an even greater role when it comes to providing ease and rejuvenation in transit. US aircraft manufacturer Boeing’s plane of the future includes calming and soporific lighting projections such as starry skies on the walls and bulkheads to help promote better-quality sleep.
Hotel room fitness
The latest on-the-go fitness solutions are not limited to airports and planes. Hotel room workouts are also rising in popularity. According to a 2017 study by Cornell University Center for Hospitality Research, 46 per cent of US hotel guests travel with the intention of working out, however only 22 per cent of travellers use hotel gyms. There’s a huge opportunity here for health clubs to collaborate with hoteliers to provide guests with in-room solutions – like workout equipment and videos – that offer flexible, private and convenient ways to exercise.
Several hotels are starting to explore this concept by offering flexible in-room exercise classes, streamed live or on-demand from local gyms and fitness specialists. In June this year, global hotel chain Hilton Hotels and Resorts unveiled its Five Feet to Fitness concept (see HCM July, p50). This collection of rooms includes premium in-room gym equipment, such as indoor cycling bikes from British company Wattbike and functional training stations with weights, suspension ropes and pull-up bars.
The road ahead
In-transit and in-room exercise concepts represent a commercial goldmine as modern travellers require flexible products and experiences to accommodate a myriad of needs. Airlines are taking this on board with agile cabin designs that satisfy work and leisure requirements, while also recognising that good quality sleep is a vital part of the in-flight experience.
As consumers become increasingly eager to maintain their wellbeing and fitness regimes in transit, the need for on-the-go active solutions will grow. For health and fitness businesses, it’s about identifying how you can extend your services beyond the static gym and, increasingly, looking at collaboration opportunities within the travel industry – whether that’s in the air or in-room.
Some of the most exciting new concepts are born when different industries come together. The Reebok, Peloton and Airbus collaboration is a key example of this in practice. As consumers live more blended lifestyles, this exploration will become even more important.