Hotel Swimming Pools ­- Burden or Opportunity?

Borrowing from a tongue-in-­cheek comment by boat lovers who reflect on the joys and pains of their boat ownership, residential pool owners can sometimes be overheard saying that “the best two days of my life are when I installed my pool, and the day I will fill it in.” Especially in areas that are blessed with just a few hot summer months, home owners find that their swimming pools’ benefits are shrinking noticeably as soon as their kids are asking for the car keys rather than for help with their homework.

The allure of pools in hotel properties, however, faces no such limitations. Year after year, season after season, millions of Americans choose the destinations of vacations, weekend trips and reunions not only based on the things they can do outside of the hotel, but also based on the things they can do inside of their “home away from home,” including the availability and condition of a hotel pool. Not just vacationers, but also business travelers appreciate pools for the ability to relax or exercise in a swimming pool before or after a long day of meetings.

The access to large and fun swimming pools has for a long time been associated with leisure and business travel in the US. From Florida to California, and from Illinois to Texas: Since the travel boom of the 1950s, photos of hotels often included the property’s swimming pool. Even today, hotels and management companies prominently feature their swimming pools on websites and brochures. Rightfully so: Pools are a major consideration when picking destinations, and they leave a lasting impression on those who use them.

In 2014, Hotels.com surveyed the ​​10 most popular hotel amenities among travelers. Not surprisingly, along​ with continental breakfast and free Wi­Fi, the swimming pool made the TOP 10 list, ranking higher than the bar and even air conditioning. And a 2016 study of luxury travel by Resonance Consulting​ found that the​ swimming pool ranks third in most desired amenities behind internet and privacy. Even on the popular hotel review site TripAdvisor.com, the word ‘pool’ is mentioned in over 40% of reviews, compared to approximately 25% for ‘lobby,’ ‘kitchen,’ and ‘bed.’ The word ‘bathroom’ is next, at 20%. And ‘landscaping’ barely registers at 1%.

While the swimming pool ranks so high in relative importance to guests, renovation spending on swimming pools and decks seems to rank differently.

A widely quoted 2015 Trend Analysis Report of the NYU School of Professional Studies forecasted a total​ renovation spend of $6.4 Billion and lists internet access, lobbies, restaurants and fitness centers among the priorities. Swimming pools are not mentioned in the report. According to Warren Feldman, CEO of ​Jonathan Nehmer and Associates, Inc, hotel management companies and owners roughly allocate only a total of 5%​ of their public area renovation budgets to pools, public restrooms and fitness centers combined​, after​ spending 70-80% of their total renovation budget on rooms, followed by 20% on the hotel lobby and restaurant.

Many of America’s 16,000 outdoor and 9,000 indoor hotel pools desperately need a makeover. A slab of blindingly white concrete in stark contrast against blue water can be jarring, no matter how beautiful the furniture and landscaping. Add to that water puddles after rain, or cracked concrete, and the vision of a relaxed few hours “pool-side” is surely tarnished. A bit of color, creativity and know­-how can make a big difference to travelers.

At ​RenuKrete​, we resurface concrete pool decks and gives them the look and feel of natural stone. Estimates show that the average cost to renovate a hotel pool deck is around $25,000, or approximately the same as what the shows as the average cost of a full guestroom renovation for a mid-scale hotel. While a guest room is enjoyed by one party per day, the pool area is usually enjoyed by many more ­ and seen by virtually every guest, every day.

Yes, for hotel properties, too, the swimming pool is a burden. Keeping the water clear and the pump running, installing a new ADA lift and making sure all safety regulations are followed is no easy task. With a bit more love and modest investments, that burden can be turned into a big opportunity for additional RevPAR and greater property value. And maybe, by providing the best possible experience in and around the pool a few more people end up saying: “The two best days of my life were those that I spent at my new favorite hotel. What a wonderful place to be.”