By Natasha Baker
TORONTO, May 26 (Reuters) - Travelers who want to skip the hotel fitness center in favor of local gyms that may offer better equipment, classes and amenities can turn to new apps on their smartphones to buy a day pass to a nearby gym.
"Most hotel gyms are just a small row of treadmills, and maybe a half-complete weight rack. For anyone serious about working out, it's usually not enough," said Kevin Bracken, chief executive officer of Gymsurfing based in San Francisco, California.
Gymsurfing, a new iPhone app, helps travelers book day passes to professional gyms with their smartphones, without needing to plan ahead.
Users open the app to see gyms nearby and the price of a day pass, as well as other offers.
"You see a variety of gyms and amenities they offer, such as the type of equipment they have, and whether they have pools, saunas, or spas," said Bracken.
The gyms available through the app range from corporate-style with state-of-the-art equipment to old-school body building and family-style establishments, with day passes costing between $5 to $20.
The app features passes for gyms in San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Miami and Toronto, with plans to include others.
"Our goal is make it so that as soon as you land in whatever city you're going to, you can find a place to work out," he said.
The company also plans to release a web app this week for Android phones and other devices.
Similar iPhone apps include OmFinder, which helps users find nearby yoga classes, and GymPoints to find U.S. gyms that provide one-time day passes and drop-in classes for activities such as martial arts classes or Pilates.
A survey of 500 business travelers in the United States showed most try to maintain a healthy diet and exercise, and just under half use the hotel gym to keep in shape, according to an American Express Global Business Travel.
However, business travel expert Chris McGinnis, editor of the website TravelSkills, said that many business travelers often forgo the gym because they can't fit workout clothes and shoes in their luggage.
"In the age of the carry-on bag, working out while on the road has kind of fallen to the wayside because there's not enough room for their clothes, particularly their shoes," he explained.
But he can see the appeal of the apps for travelers.
"Most hotels have gyms, but it may be a dank basement gym with no windows to the outside, or people might want the social experience of going to a gym, so in those cases an app might come in handy," he said. (Editing by Patricia Reaney and Lisa Shumaker)