Unlike many other industries, such as hospitality and retail, who have been able to adapt to ‘take away only’ or online e-commerce sales, the Australian fitness sector, which has been closed for a minimum of 30% since 23rd March last year, cannot.
In Melbourne alone, to date more than 52% of all days have been lost due to lockdowns and this figure is set to rise further with uncertainty around the current lockdown timeframe. While in Sydney, despite only being into their second city-wide lockdown, 27% of days have already been lost.
While many fitness businesses and operators have provided live-stream classes or online workouts, many of these services have been offered to members free of charge just to keep them engaged in their exercise habits.
These essential community activities that help people maintain their mental and physical health and wellbeing have received no customer income despite still having to pay fixed costs such as rent, rates, equipment rental and other utilities. On top of these financial challenges, businesses are also focused on ensuring the wellbeing of their staff and trying to maintain genuine hope in an increasingly hopeless situation.
In a stark reality check of the impact of COIVD on our sector, prior to the pandemic employment levels in the sports and physical recreation activities industry, which also takes in the health and fitness sector, substantially rose from 54,700 in 2000 to 117,800 in 2019. However, faced with lockdowns, business uncertainty and poor economic confidence this figure dropped by almost half in 2020 to 61,200.*
Unfortunately, unlike the hospitality sector, their small business fitness and exercise equivalents have not had the benefit of government support thorough finance support packages or the various participation voucher systems implemented by most states to support business recovery, when things do open.
This double whammy is hard to comprehend when at the same time, the community is being reminded of the importance of daily exercise.
With the lack of income and customer participation caused by the lockdowns, serious consideration needs to be given to the “recovery” of our sector once cases drop, vaccinations increase and the two most populated states start opening up.
State governments, and their federal counterpart need to activate a voucher initiative as a priority to help propel the industry. Indeed, for the target vaccination group of under 40’s such an incentive may be especially attractive. A voucher incentive also has the potential for a legacy of participants not only starting an exercise regime but maintaining it; a legacy that does not apply to the hospitality sector except for perhaps the encouragement of more alcohol consumption.
Exercise and physical activity, wherever it takes place and in whatever form, is essential for the maintenance of positive physical and mental wellbeing.
Fortunately, we know the recognition of the importance of exercise is growing, as evidenced by our sector opening sooner from recent lockdowns, compared to last year.
What Governments at all levels need to think about, now more than ever, is the broader health and long-term wellbeing of the community by encouraging participation and access to a variety of safe exercise options.
Barrie Elvish, Fitness Australia.
18th August 2021 - Global Health & Fitness Alliance sets out to prove the exercise industry’s value to society
18th August 2021 - Industry resigned to ongoing lockdown closures
17th August 2021 - Les Mills launches new profit centre to help grow revenue and member retention
17th August 2021 - New ClubIntel research shows fitness consumers demanding highly personalised service
5th August 2021 - FILEX to return in October in virtual series format
29th July 2021 - Fitness Australia advises of concessions achieved for gym reopenings
21st July 2021 - Fitness Australia calls for ‘JobKeeper 2.0’ as Coronavirus lockdowns widen
17th July 2021 - FILEX announces new partnership with Australian Institute of Personal Trainers
9th July 2021 - COVID uncertainty sees FILEX face-to-face events postponed to 2022
6th July 2021 - Fitness Australia registered members gain access to Bupa health fund benefits
5th July 2021 - Fitness Australia welcomes EFM Health Clubs into business membership
3rd July 2021 - Fitness Australia invites input on industry trends survey
9th June 2021 - Fitness Australia and Vic Active demand exercise facilities be allowed to open in regional Victoria
4th June 2021 - Fitness Australia asks why Victoria’s Chief Health Officer is again targeting gyms
27th May 2021 - Fitness Australia urges locked down Victorians not to forget the importance of physical activity
6th May 2021 - Fitness Australia, ESSA and SMA join forces to launch pre-exercise screening system specifically for young people
20th April 2021 - Fitness Australia partners with new FITNESS + WELLNESS AUSTRALIA event to enhance attendee experience
23rd March 2021 - Fitness Australia says industry ‘continues to strengthen’ 12 months since COVID-19 shutdowns
24th February 2021 - Fitness Australia welcomes NSW Government’s lifting of gym class numbers to 50 people
23rd February 2021 - Fitness Australia’s Barrie Elvish highlights the value of health
16th October 2020 - Fitness Australia’s Barrie Elvish maintains calls for gyms to open in regional Victoria
21st September 2020 - Fitness Australia’s Barrie Elvish to meet with Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer to urge gym reopening
18th March 2020 - Fitness Australia’s Barrie Elvish says ‘gyms do not need to close’
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