H&LA Senior Associate Adam Zarczynski weighed in with Hotel News Now the growing popularity of pickleball and how hotels and resorts are looking to capitalize on it to seek new revenue opportunities.
Published by: Laura Koss-Feder/Hotel News Now
Published date: March 2023
What started several years ago as a game with a funny-sounding name has exploded into a sport among people of all ages and demographics.
Pickleball, which is a cross between tennis, ping pong and badminton, has become the fastest-growing sport in America, according to a 2022 report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. Larger resorts have gotten into the action by adding on-site courts.
More than 8.9 million people over the age of 6 played pickleball last year in the United States, which is nearly double the 4.8 million players reported the previous year and a whopping 158.6% increase over the past three years. To accommodate this demand, some hotels are converting tennis courts to pickleball courts and even adding pickleball clinics and lessons.
While less than 5% of the total hotel supply in the U.S. has added pickleball amenities on property, this phenomenon is growing at resorts and resort-type hotels, said Adam Zarczynski, senior associate at Hotel & Leisure Advisors.
“Pickleball has become a sport that many use for networking, similar to golf,” he said. “Resorts are realizing that this activity is something that is attracting players of all ages and are trying to incorporate this into their activity-offering now to appeal to these players, and even some who have never played before.”
Pickleball courts are also smaller than tennis courts, which means the maintenance costs can be lower, although they do still require upkeep so the playing surface does not deteriorate, Zarczynski said. Alternatively, some properties add pickleball courts within the confines of existing tennis courts.
One property embracing the pickleball phenomenon is the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, which has six courts on-site and even offers pro services, said Mark Volterre, director of The HealthClub by Hilton at the property. This has become a significant driver of revenue for the hotel’s 100,000-square-foot health club. In addition to tournaments and local guests, the sport has become very popular with corporate groups for team-building activities and even birthday parties.
Volterre said that pickleball courts are very easy to maintain.
“Often, tennis courts are converted into pickleball courts and costs incurred are court-painting conversion, paddle/ball equipment and the occasional purchase of new nets,” he said.
Volterre said the sport has grown into a strong revenue driver.
“Demand is very high for travelers visiting from out of town, and we often have visitors paying for court time just because we have indoor courts on-site,” he said. “We’ve also been able to generate ancillary revenue with our pickleball offerings through hosting tournaments, where we receive court rental revenues along with food and beverage and room nights associated with the tournaments.”
Another Hilton property, The Woodlands Resort, Curio Collection by Hilton, in The Woodlands, Texas, features over 21 courts dedicated to pickleball for indoor and outdoor use. The property also has two on-site certified pickleball instructors, said Director of Marketing Kelly McCourt.
“There has been an increased level of interest in pickleball, especially among group travelers,” McCourt said. “Oftentimes guests will come together on the courts to start their own pickleball tournaments, which has added tremendous value to the guest experience.”
She said that many guests are starting to look for accommodations at hotels and resorts that offer pickleball as an amenity during their stay.
“We have guests playing pickleball almost every day; it is significantly growing year over year,” she added.
Pickleball has become an alternative to tennis for guests, including multigenerational families, couples and even group travelers, said General Manager Dan Johnson of the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa in Palm Springs, California.
“Since installing our four pickleball courts in October 2021, which we converted from one of our original tennis courts, we found that they have become one of our most popular amenities and have seen increased use of our courts year-round,” Johnson said. “Our guests have easy and unlimited access to pickleball paddles and balls, so all they have to do is get on the court and have a good time.”
The resort even sells pickleball kits in its retail space, he added.
The Lexington Griffin Gate Marriott Golf Resort & Spa in Kentucky, which is managed by Aimbridge Hospitality, added three new pickleball courts in 2022.
“These courts are a great amenity for our guests,” said Andrew Labetti, general manager of Lexington Griffin Gate Marriott Golf Resort & Spa. “The courts also provide an opportunity for us to showcase our property to the greater community when we host pickleball tournaments and social hours.”
Labetti said pickleball courts are easier to maintain compared to outdoor pools and golf courses. They have the potential to also set the property apart from its competition.
Tamara Baldanza-Dekker, chief marketing officer at Margaritaville, said that her brand has seen an influx of travelers coming to its resort properties to play pickleball.
“By introducing pickleball courts at our resort and hotel destinations globally, we are standing out over the competition, offering an activity/amenity for all ages and abilities,” she said.
As demand for pickleball keeps on growing, there is no end in sight to the sports opportunities at hotels.