EQUINOX will take a huge leap into the luxury hotel business, bringing its core philosophies to “the art of travel”. The first Equinox Hotel is set to open in 2019 in New York City’s Hudson Yards, and will have a focus on movement, with a 60,000sq ft (5,400 sqm) gym – and a “major” spa
Equinox has plans to significantly grow its hotel business beyond New York, adding more than 50 locations. Last year the company brought on Christopher Norton – formerly COO of Four Seasons – as CEO of the hospitality business. And earlier this year, Equinox named Amanda Al-Masri – who had been working as global director of spa operations and development for Starwood – as vice president of spa services.
“Our tagline, ‘It’s not fitness – it’s life’, perfectly sums up my attraction to Equinox after spending so long in hotels,” says Al-Masri. With her role at Equinox, she’s eager to reaffirm that the luxury fitness operator is not just a gym, but a leader in the high-performance lifestyle market. The spa component of Equinox’s concept is integrated with its core fitness business, with trainers recommending treatments that will help guests recover from tough workouts, perform better, or just create more balance in their wellness-focused lives.|
Equinox’s focus on lifestyle means that spa is a key part of members’ lives, rather than an ancillary business. Its core philosophy focuses on the pillars of movement, nutrition and regeneration – which is where the spa component lives.
“Spa is front and centre in the club’s offerings, rather than simply an amenity or a place to be pampered, as is often the case in day spas or hotel spas,” says Al-Masri. “It integrates seamlessly with the other programming, and works symbiotically with the other pillars of movement and nutrition to help our members achieve their high-performance goals.”
This means that spa employees collaborate with their peers who work in personal training, group fitness and Pilates to create programmes for their members. For instance, for a member training for a marathon, a trainer might recommend a Performance Massage, which uses techniques designed to help align muscle tissues for better kinetic chain mobility and enhanced performance.
“Working together allows us to provide an outcome much more powerful than the sum of its parts,” explains Al-Masri. “Our massage therapists and aestheticians are selected for their ability to help our members achieve their goals, whether that’s optimising performance, pushing through plateaus, recovering from an injury or illness, or simply restarting a healthier lifestyle. Working with our in-house team of experts allows us to tackle these outcomes in a holistic, three-dimensional way that impacts more quickly – and with longer-lasting results.”
Most of Equinox’s massages focus on muscle recovery, tissue regeneration and flexibility – key issues for its target guests – but it also has a wide range of facials, body treatments and waxing services. The spas work with a variety of skincare brands, but its largest partners are SkinCeuticals, Caudalie and Elemis. And while having an on-site spa at a fitness club is a benefit to members, it’s much more than that: the spa is an independent profit centre, and also generates membership leads through its day spa use.
Part of Equinox’s appeal is its lifestyle approach, which creates something more than just a gym or a spa – its members come to hang out or work remotely in the Lounge Cafes. Its unapologetic brand voice is both edgy and distinct, and its advertising is designed to foster thought-provoking conversations. “We started as a cool place to work out, but realised our clientele hungered for community and a way of life,” explains Al-Masri. “Striking this balance has given us license to stay at the forefront of the industry with impactful, science-based programming, while driving forward conversations in the worlds of fashion, healthy living, technology, pop culture and sport.”
Architecture and design is a big part of this – no two locations are the same, and part of Equinox’s philosophy is to create environments that reflect the unique market and neighbourhood of each site. At its flagship London club in Kensington, for instance, the 5th floor gym is housed at the site of the former Rainbow Room – where the likes of Mick Jagger and Twiggy once partied till dawn – and retains the iconic dance club’s illuminated elliptical dome and mirrored centrepiece.
The hotel concept is predicated on the same Equinox philosophy, and the target guest is one who already embraces a healthy lifestyle. “The goal is to create the sense of community, personalisation and style we’re known for in our clubs, re-envisioned in a new, luxury-driven environment,” explains Al-Masri. “We want to raise the bar on what a hotel experience should feel like, and evolve the idea of travel as something that can fit seamlessly into a healthy lifestyle.”
All hotels will have spas, and the hotel spas will offer a roster of technicians and services tailored to everything from sleep and relaxation to recovery and optimised performance. “The spas at Equinox Hotels will focus on the ‘regeneration’ aspect of high-performance living,” says Al-Masri. “As in every aspect of our business, spa relies heavily on innovation, technology and expertise in our field, rather than relying on traditional expectations of what a spa should look like. Add in world-class service, design and facilities, and we feel confident that the hotel spas will stand alone in each market we enter.”
Equinox is looking to develop additional locations – reportedly more than 50 – in US urban markets and other global gateway cities, including London. The hotels will also offer healthy food that’s tailored to the workout and travel regime of the guest, and will aim to maximise sleep quality by removing disruptors such as light pollution and noise.
For the Hudson Yards hotel, Equinox is working with designers Yabu Pushelberg to create a design concept rooted in a modern industrial aesthetic, with structural and mechanical systems left exposed. Conceived as an entirely new hotel experience that meets the needs of the high-performance traveller, Yabu Pushelberg is tasked with creating “a modern haven for life maximisation.”
“The Equinox brand lives at the intersection of substance and style, and Equinox Hotels will evolve this concept, merging substance and style with impeccable service,” says Al-Masri. “Equinox Hotels is where the science of fitness meets the art of travel.”
Amanda Al-Masri was interviewed by SpaBusiness.com