NYRIW Preview: How Roam Fitness Meets Travelers At The Juncture Of Wellness And Convenience
Ahead of an NYRIW panel on New Destinations for Airport Retail, PSFK spoke to ROAM Fitness founder and CMO Cynthia Sandall to learn about how the brand is meeting consumers at the junction of their interest in wellness and their on-the-go lifestyles, enabling fitness maintenance at convenience
On-demand fitness is important to travelers today, as they don’t want to give up their routines when they’re away from home. ROAM Fitness, a pioneer in the merging industries of travel and wellness, is helping these consumers maintain their health and fitness goals, providing in-airport facilities and personalized services including gyms, showers and healthy grab-and-go meals so that travelers don't have to compromise.
After opening its first location at BWI, the ROAM team is now sought out by airports around the world to consult on optimal concession offerings in terminals in order to modernize and improve the passenger experience. Ahead of speaking on the New Destinations for Airport Retail panel during New York Retail Innovation Week, founder and CMO Cynthia Sandal spoke to PSFK about ROAM and how it is pioneering the future of travel fitness.
What are the consumer as well as industry trends driving the services that ROAM provides? Were there any gaps or unmet consumer needs that you noticed that you wanted to fill?
Airports are beginning to focus on improving the passenger experience by making their terminals more of a destination instead of a place people are forced to endure between flights. For decades people have submitted to the fact that travel days are unhealthy and unproductive because the only things to do in an airport were eat fast-food, drink alcohol or shop. The services in airports are evolving because there is a growing passenger demand for healthier options that allow travelers to make the most of their time and care for their bodies. Research also shows that the lower a passenger’s stress, the more money he or she spends on concessions—which means more revenue for the airports.
People have also learned a lot about health and wellness in recent decades as scientific research continues to shed light on how diets and exercise impact our mental health and wellbeing. In particular, studies have confirmed that our bodies are particularly stressed on travel days and that long stretches of sitting negatively impact our health. The more people understand the variables that contribute to good health the more they are able to prioritize the efforts that support it in their daily lives. Eating well and exercising daily has become a mainstream lifestyle instead of items to check-off our to-do list.
Business travelers and frequent fliers alike seek out and pay for services that make their travel days more comfortable and more productive—this means the line between business and leisure travel has blurred. For so many of us, traveling is “me-time” even if we’re heading to a business conference or meeting. And, for many of us, me-time means taking care of our bodies through exercise, healthy eating and self-care rituals.
What motivated you to found ROAM, and how has the brand evolved since its incipiency?
Ty and I are both frequent fliers who love to travel, but we know how much stress it puts on our bodies. We are very familiar with the feeling of helpless lethargy on travel days. Until ROAM there was no good way to care for our bodies, burn off energy and make the most of our down-time in the airport. We believe that travel days don’t have to compromise our health.
Recognizing the unmet demand for health services in airports, the ROAM team built a business model from the ground up with the functionality and unique challenges of an airport in mind. ROAM puts gym and shower facilities into airports, behind security, giving passengers a place to move and care for their bodies on travel days. However, there is more to it than just breaking a sweat. Our brand experience is our top priority and as such our gyms are designed with every aspect of travel in mind.
We have a locker system to accommodate luggage and simultaneously charge devices. If a guest doesn’t have workout clothes with them they can use our complimentary rental workout gear or they can purchase new apparel and shoes from our retail section. Our shower reservation system helps ensure guests make it to their gate on time, so do flight information display boards throughout the gym. Our front desk team has hospitality and customer service backgrounds; their main focus is ensuring everyone that interacts with ROAM in some way (touring the facility, purchasing something to drink, shopping the lululemon apparel, or working out) feels like they are seen and heard. We are “humanizing” the airport terminal.
I would venture to say that the experiential part of our brand is in top shape; we’re always learning and tweaking operational procedures based on the recommendations in our feedback loops. The lifestyle part our brand—the part of us that wants to add value to our members lives outside of the airport and share travel and wellness news and aspirations—that part is still nascent and where I am beginning to focus more of my time and effort.
ROAM aims to help an increasingly wellness-focused audience stay fit while they travel without sacrificing convenience. Can you speak about the intersection of travel and wellness, and how your services enable a synergy between the two?
ROAM is a pioneer in the merging industries of travel and wellness. From day one we understood that health and wellness is a holistic endeavor, even on travel days. Caring for our bodies is key to leading a healthy lifestyle and it is a personal experience— self-care means different things to different people. For some, it will be simply stretching in our yoga space, or taking a shower after a red-eye flight before heading to a business meeting, or buying kombucha and a clean protein bar, or using all of the facilities—working out, showering, and grabbing a snack on the way out the door.
The benefits of exercise are numerous and noticeable but at the airport they feel that much more effective. Our gyms serve passengers and help reduce their stress and anxiety but they also serve airport and airline employees. The benefits of access to a gym and wellness center at the airport veritably improves the wellbeing of everyone there that has the time and desire to use it.
After opening our first location at BWI, the ROAM team is now sought out by airports around the world to consult on optimal concession offerings in terminals in order to modernize and improve the passenger experience. With one gym open and plans to open SFO and JFK locations in 2019, ROAM’s wellness services epitomize the future of travel experiences.
We hear a lot about the intersection of luxury and travel, and how high-end brands that previously would have avoided associating with airports now are actually catering to the captive audiences of these locations. Who are your main customers? What is your target demographic?
ROAM’s primary customers are millennial and Gen-X business travelers that are flying solo, domestically. These frequent fliers are disciplined and don’t want to forgo their workouts while they are away from home, 44% of them use their hotel gym while traveling. Business travelers in airports skew male, have a high level of discretionary income, and compose roughly 1/3 of all U.S. passengers. The ROAM team has been able to partner with luxury fitness brands because of our commitment to exceptional service tailored towards this demographic.
For our key brand partners like lululemon, Technogym, and Malin+Goetz, our gyms are a living showroom for their products and give guests and members the chance to experience using the products before they buy them. It is no surprise that the most popular apparel items sold are the same pieces that are in our complimentary rental workout gear program. ROAM is a platform for premium brands to create memorable interactions with health-conscious travelers. As we know, these memorable experiences increase brand affinity and set the stage for repeat purchases.
While our gyms are a source of reprieve from travel days for business travelers, we’ve also welcomed baby boomers, college students, leisure travelers, and airport and airline staff. In fact, airport and airline employees have been the earliest adopters of our annual membership.
Do you have any insights into what consumers want out of travel experiences today? Why do you think access to on-demand fitness is so important to today's travelers?
Consumers want their travel experiences to be personalized and memorable. At ROAM we make every effort to personalize members' experiences by noting the sizes of their workout gear and shoes, their favorite shower room, beverage and bar preferences, etc. in their member profiles. These notes enable us to provide quick, personalized service and make new product recommendations based on their preferences. Attention to travelers’ needs and investing in the quality of the equipment and facility supports our effort to create a memorable experience for our guests.
On-demand fitness is important to travelers because they don’t want to give up their fitness routines when they’re away from home. These platforms are familiar and can go anywhere and be used any time of day or night. Familiarity is important because travelers don’t have to worry about if they’ll get a good workout in at a gym they don’t know. Instead, they can launch their app of choice and know what equipment is needed (if any) and how much energy and time it will take to fit in their sweat session.
ROAM has partnered with many brands to offer their products in its locations, from food brands to athleisure retailers like Lululemon. Could you speak about these partnerships, and how they serve your customers?
We pursue partnerships in the fitness and travel industries that share our values and are the best at what they do. The brands that have the most touchpoints with ROAM guests are our key brand partners and we share open lines of communication. These partners are invited to be a part of our on-site staff training before we open a facility. ROAM employees receive the same education and coaching about their products and brand identity as their own employees. We are all committed to these efforts because it provides a premium guest experience that showcases these brands.
Our apparel provider is lululemon, we use their clothes for our employee uniforms and our rental program and we are the only authorized lululemon retailer in airports. Our equipment manufacturer is Technogym, an Italian company that controls the luxury gym equipment market. Malin+Goetz bath products are provided in all of our private shower rooms, they are made from natural ingredients for sensitive skin. Brooks Running is another partner that is included in both our rental program and retail. Members of Priority Pass and The Club (Airport Lounge Development), two airport lounge services that cater to the more affluent, predominately male, frequent flier receive special access to ROAM Fitness.
For the rest of our retail program, and food and beverage offerings, we view the products we carry as partnerships too. They are carefully curated to support healthy individuals on their travel days.
In a nutshell, what do you hope to share at your event with NYRIW?
There is untapped potential for big brands to work with service providers to create new environments and memorable experiences for consumers. Once a shared objective is agreed upon, the brand exposure and experience can be unique and memorable. At ROAM we are focused on partnering with brands that help us improve consumers’ quality of life—both in the short and long term—elevating their travel experience the day they visit our facility and remaining on their radar as a resource for noteworthy wellness products and services that support their healthy travel ambitions.
What's in store for the future of ROAM?
We are working with XpresSpa to create a facility in Terminal 2 at SFO. It has a small footprint but we know that it will increase awareness of the ROAM brand and help educate the public about our services. From there, we will explore opening a larger location in another terminal at SFO. ROAM also has the opportunity to install a flagship location at JFK in Terminal 5. This space offers a much larger footprint with access to incredible event activation assets that can be used for ROAM programming and promotions. Many terms still need to be agreed upon but this location has the ability to launch ROAM onto the national stage. We are very excited about everything that 2019 holds.
ROAM fitness is meeting consumers at the junction of their interest in wellness and their on-the-go lifestyles, providing an escape from the stresses of travel and enabling health maintenance. For more from Cynthia, come see her speak at the New Destinations for Airport Retail panel detailing how brands can seize the airport retail opportunity while delivering a shopping experience on par with traditional store experiences. Tickets available here!