By Adam and Larry Mogelonsky

Does the guarantee of a good night’s sleep influence a guest’s hotel choice? We say unquestionably yes. With the rise of sleep tourism where millions of people are starting to prioritize getting a solid seven-hour rest when traveling, hotels all over the world are responding in kind with newfangled or upgraded sleep programs.

However, marketing that a brand cares about a guest’s sleep is a world of difference from the program’s execution. And as it relates to the execution, there’s no better place to look than a luxury hotel that has debuted a sleep program where every single detail has been meticulously completed.

After all, luxury guests may understand the value of being well-rested better than any other guest type. As an example, consider a corporate executive on an important business trip where a great night’s sleep ensures a sound mind and good decision-making abilities for the following day’s meetings, during which time numerous other people may be directly affected by those meetings’ outcomes.

Given how paramount sleep is for guests and how significant a booking driver it can be, it was our pleasure (and duty!) to stay at the Equinox Hotel New York and experience the full depth of the brand’s unrivaled sleep program, then report back on what this hotel is doing that’s so remarkable. In short, it always comes down to the attention to detail at every level, and it was a delight to speak with Equinox CEO Chris Norton during our time in the Big Apple to help us understand the process behind this property’s inception and its focus on sleep.

A Leader in Lifestyle and Luxury

To set the mood, some background on this luxury property is first required. The Equinox Hotel New York opened in July 2019 with 212 rooms and suites as part of the multibillion-dollar Hudson Yards real estate development. Described as a city within the city, all the gleaming, ultramodern towers have been built on top of the railyards leading into Penn Station, with the Equinox Hotel right across the street from the iconic Vessel art installation, The Shops at Hudson Yards and The Shed, an eight-story art center.

As the first hotel property for Equinox Group, the parent company, the Equinox Hotel New York is the culmination of three decades of growth for the brand which opened its first high-end fitness club in the Upper West Side in 1991 and, amongst others, launched SoulCycle in 2006. Expanding into luxury hospitality was a natural extension, but it nevertheless required an astute vision for how travel behavior is evolving and the emergence of the lifestyle hotel category.

Traditional luxury will always have its place, but the lifestyle movement within this segment touches on a profound and wholly 21st-century evolution in that luxury now transcends demographics. Travelers are actively seeking hotel brands whose identities and values are in harmony with their own personal beliefs, with the inception for Equinox Hotels coming about through the recognition that many people of all ages want to maintain their healthy lifestyle while traveling, codified as high-performance living.

This is reflected by the guestroom amenities such as the Art + Science of Sleep program; by the immediate access to the fitness club, Equinox Hudson Yards; by the bevy of nutritious food options provided by the onsite restaurant, Electric Lemon; and by having a world-class onsite wellness center, The Spa by Equinox Hotels.

“Equinox Hotels redefines luxury hospitality for those who embrace high-performance living,” commented Norton. “Our concept of luxury transcends the white glove grandeur of the past, focusing on meaningful details and a seamless guest experience. Rooted in the pillars of movement, nutrition, regeneration and community, our modern hospitality offering infuses every stay with purpose. As a luxury hotel, a place intended for rest and rejuvenation, we recognize the profound impact of travel on sleep, a fundamental element of well-being. Our guestrooms and sleep program have been developed alongside sleep scientists, offering a science-backed approach that optimizes rest so every guest can get their best night’s sleep.”

With respect to being a trendsetter in the lifestyle hotel category, an important concept from economics to borrow here is what’s called induced demand. By raising awareness for what’s possible in a luxury, cutting-edge hotel sleep program, Equinox Hotels elevates the entire market for sleep tourism and helps to grow the total addressable market (TAM) for the lifestyle category. In other words, this property is definitely not a ‘one off’; it’s leading the charge on the next big thing in hospitality.

The Art + Science of Sleep in Focus

Until recently, sleep was often treated as auxiliary to good health when compared to diet and exercise. But as more and more research in the past decade in the field of sleep science has revealed, it is now widely known that sleep plays an essential role in cognition, mood, bodily fatigue, appetite and immune system functionality. While we all like traveling, the combination of jetlag, grueling hours spent in transit, the unease of being away from home and the ambient noise of a noisy metropolis like New York can all lead to poor sleep quality.

Embracing the design mantra of ‘dark, quiet and cool’, the finishings and furnishings inscribed by the Art + Science of Sleep program at the Equinox Hotel New York are thoughtfully designed to transform each guestroom into a veritable sleep chamber by incorporating all the latest sleep hygiene practices so that all guests are guaranteed a fantastic night’s rest.

As aforementioned, it’s all in the details, and here are some that make this program truly exceptional:

•  Light-absorbent and sound-dampening materials such as black marble, dark woods and stylish insulating wall panels

•  Special linens and bedding materials made from toxin-free materials and designed to dissipate bodily heat during sleep and reduce moisture residues

•  Best-in-class HVAC and synchronized smart thermostats to accurately modulate ambient temperature without any noise

•  Blackout curtains precisely measured to fit each window frame and block out all exterior light

•  Circadian-adjusted lighting such as the stylish amber-hued bedside lamp and ground-level strip lighting built into the bedframe with motion sensor activation

•  One-touch dimming and ‘lights out’ mode buttons adjoining the bed for intuitive room controls

•  A smart television with a simplified remote for easy access to the bespoke AM/PM Rituals, constituting time-adjusted, on-demand yoga instructions to reset the body in the morning then calm it back down in the evening

•  Custom bathroom amenities by Grown Alchemist, made with natural ingredients to help soothe the skin and relax the body

•  A full reimagination to the entire minibar and coffee service amenities dubbed the RoomBar (more on this in a moment)

And as the literal cherry on top, turndown service includes two dark chocolate-covered tart cherries – one of the few foods that’s a natural source of exogenous melatonin, the brain’s own sleep hormone – delivered under a dapper smoking cloche dome.

An undercurrent to all these room features are some themes that serve as tutelage for any hotel looking to enter the sleep tourism space. Namely, the room is quite high-tech, and yet everything is intuitive and invisible, or, in a word, convenient to the guest. The curtains and lights are seamlessly accessible from the one-touch bedside controls while the in-room tablet acts as a universal access point for all the hotel’s services and information on neighborhood attractions.

Together with the essentialist décor and FF&E, the overall impression is a deep-rooted sense of ‘peace of mind’ – that the hotel has dwelled on every detail to ensure the guest sleeps soundly.

The RoomBar Redefines What the Minibar Can Do

The two of us have long preached the need for a contemporary rethink of the minibar, both as a profit center and as a way to further propel the hotel’s branding. Gone are the days when a refrigerator was only stocked with mainstays like canned Coca-Cola and one-ounce bottles of Smirnoff will cut it. There’s no identity here and nothing that will reinforce the authenticity of the guest experience. Fashioned as the RoomBar, this amenity at the Equinox Hotel New York serves as a quintessential example of how a property can imbue even more lifestyle elements in the room.

Some highlights of the RoomBar that caught our eye include:

•  In lieu of basic milk or cream, the Nespresso coffeemaker comes with a collagen powder-infused coconut creamer

•  For caffeinated and herbal teas, rather than sort the selection by specific ingredients, these are named according to purpose with Power Up, Recover, Regenerate and Power Down

•  Bolstering the high-performance living mantra are exercise accessories like a foam roller, massage ball and small gym bag

•  A full array of 80+ health-conscious products for purchase such as functional snacks, niche brand green juices and vitamin packs, all neatly laid out for easy browsing

While the health and exercise focus here likely won’t be the best approach for any other brand, the lesson for all hoteliers is that the minibar should be a ‘reason to visit’ in its own right. Rather than just being a nondescript amenity, the RoomBar is a feature that guests take their time to explore and appreciate, in the process introducing guests to new ways to live healthier back at home.

Looking Ahead to the Future

In speaking with Norton, one challenge that the hotel has overcome is extending its awareness outside of the core fitness-oriented following that stems from the Equinox Group’s brand cachet. It’s all too easy for a traveler to look at the Equinox Hotel New York and quickly think, “I don’t exercise while traveling, so this hotel isn’t for me.”

True, not everyone has a fitness-primary mindset (right now at least), but everyone sleeps and thus the mission to craft a sleep chamber out of the guestroom is something that resonates with all travelers coming from any origin market. As previously mentioned, the TAM for sleep tourism is only getting bigger, making the demand for luxury sleep experiences ever greater over time.

Combined with the spa, the restaurant, and, yes, the fitness club, the Equinox Hotel New York is a genuine urban wellness hotel and an oasis amongst the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Outside of this property, Equinox Group has plans to build new hotels in several other alpha-tier cities in the coming years, so be on the lookout for announcements to that effect as you think about how to elevate your own sleep program.