LONDON, United Kingdom — Not-for-profit health body ukactive has announced its strategy for the reopening of gyms in the UK once lockdown is lifted.
The policy, which calls for the Government to support the reopening of the physical activity sector in five major areas once current restrictions are eased, argues that the safe reopening of gyms and fitness studios will require a balance of safety measures along with a financially viable model for operating.
Speaking about the policy, Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, explained: “While we are working tirelessly to ensure the physical activity sector is ready to open when called upon by the Government, we cannot ignore the looming threat posed to thousands of organisations and hundreds of thousands of jobs once restrictions do begin to ease.
“In order for the physical activity sector to reopen successfully so that it can support our communities in their hour of need, it is crucial the Government delivers the conditions required to help fitness and leisure providers to get back on their feet.
“We are calling for a raft of essential measures that will enable both public and private organisations to reopen their doors with confidence when the time comes.”
Within the four-stage strategy, ukactive outlines research on business modelling, a framework for operators, a public information campaign and policy support.
In particular, to help rebuild the sector, it calls on the Government to follow the example of Germany in protecting businesses from prohibitive VAT and staff costs — arguing that while the Government has already introduced a business rates holiday for all operators until the end of March 2021, businesses continue to face significant operational costs despite revenues falling to zero, and need support in managing that.
With operators facing continuing concerns around rent, it also calls for consistency in negotiations between landlords and operators to ensure rent payments are not prohibitive. And for workers, it suggests an extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until October (and for as long as necessary) to ensure businesses have continued support as social distancing measures progress.
In fact, when gyms and studios do eventually reopen — which is predicted to be in the second wave of reopenings later this year — capacity is likely to be limited, leaving many operators unable to return to full staffing capacity immediately, so ongoing support for staff will be crucial.
So what could the reopening of gyms and studios look like?
Beyond Government restrictions, many operators have also begun brainstorming measures that could be taken to enable the safe reopening of the industry. Suggestions for adjusting operations to minimise the risk of infection include reducing classes by half, using booking slots to cap attendance at gyms and implementing stringent cleaning procedures and additional measures.
Humphrey Cobbold, chief executive of low-cost gym operator, PureGym, told The Times he expected capacity to be between 30 and 50 percent lower than pre-COVID, with members encouraged to use an app to monitor and plan their visits accordingly.
Indoor cycling boutique SoulCycle has announced it will implement a raft of new hygiene measures it’s calling Soul Standard — which includes top-grade disinfectant & more frequent cleaning, staff face masks and gloves, and where mandated by local or state governments, the checking of the temperature of riders as they enter the studio.
And the US, Crunch CEO Jim Rowley told NBC News that his team had reviewed the whole member experience from start to finish to create a 37-page manual that covers multiple areas, including social distancing (with plans to put cardio equipment six feet apart), sanitation and disinfection.
“This is the way we want to do things into perpetuity,” he told the news platform. “This won’t be the last virus, but we can create these good habits.”
Equinox also revealed that it plans to implement additional safety measures.
“We have set up a dedicated task force that is responsible for working with leading medical experts on a thoughtful and comprehensive plan that goes above and beyond the guidelines of health organizations,” said Equinox Chairman Harvey Spevak.
However, in the UK at least, until the government lays out its post-lockdown ‘roadmap’, the £5bn industry continues with its mass migration to digital.