According to a survey conducted by the Fitness Industry Council of Canada, 64% of club operators indicated a preference for middle to late stage reopening of fitness facilities in Canada. A total of 89 respondents from eight provinces completed the survey between May 4 and May 7th.
Across the country health authorities are carefully easing restrictions on businesses, with many provinces implementing a multi-phased approach beginning in early May. Timelines for each phase will be adjusted as health experts monitor and evaluate the impact of lifting restrictions, but later phases could extend into the fall.
Making the Case for Early Reopening
Many respondents who indicated the need to open their facilities sooner expressed concerns about financial viability while others cited the important role fitness providers play in the physical and mental health of Canadians:
- “Bills are piling up, we need to open now or we won’t survive.”
- “The industry has established high standards already and has demonstrated they can operate safely under controlled conditions.”
- “We’ll be operating at reduced capacity regardless during the summer, social distancing and strict cleaning procedures will be manageable.”
- “Small studios should be allowed to open sooner as long as strict controls on physical distancing can be maintained.”
- “Canada is facing a physical and mental health crisis on top of the pandemic. Fitness and socialization will be a key component of our recovery.”
In BC some smaller gyms are expected to open after May 19th, but there is concern a few operators may not have implemented sufficient protocols and procedures for operating in a COVID-19 environment.
“I’m a little nervous about facilities opening up before June 1st,” says Carl Ulmer, Director of Club 16 Trevor Linden Fitness in Vancouver. “The ones that do open now are basically representing the industry for the rest of Canada.”
Ulmer is coordinating a BC initiative to develop a framework of guidelines, procedures and standards for facilities planning to reopen in early June. His team has already received positive feedback on proposed distancing and cleaning standards for clubs from WorkSafeBC, a provincial agency that promotes safe and healthy workplaces.
“We want to ensure that BC is setting the tone for the rest of the country, and demonstrate that the industry can take the right steps to operate safely for our staff and members.”
Ulmer encourages BC operators planning to open this month to connect with Fitness Industry Canada (www.ficdn.ca) for more information on the BC framework. FIC is coordinating similar initiatives in other provinces.
Mid/Late Stage Reopening
The safety of members and staff was often cited in the survey as a key concern for club operators reopening their facilities too soon. Provinces are gradually seeing a ‘flattening of the curve’ but the risk of a 2nd wave or localized outbreak remains. Many respondents also commented on the potential for backlash against the entire industry in the event of a COVID-19 transmission linked to a fitness facility:
- “We don’t want to be on the leading edge – the more time the better to assess how other businesses and industries are fairing.”
- “We need time to implement all systems and conform to guidelines and policies not yet finalized, have adequate supply chains for required cleaning and PPE products, train staff and educate members. We must get this right the 1st time!”
- “Retention will be a major issue but delaying opening may result in reduced restrictions and in turn reduced membership cancellations.”
- “Summer has historically low volumes anyway and later stages may allow less restriction therefore less costly changes.”
- “We’re unable to operate profitably now with restricted capacity reducing revenue, especially with the added costs of COVID-19 compliance.”
- “It’s not practical to exercise with a face mask on!”
There are many factors that will weigh on club operators in the weeks and months ahead. When to reopen will reflect the unique circumstances of each organization and ultimately be an individual decision, commensurate with provincial legislation and health/safety guidelines.
If you operate a fitness facility in Canada you are encouraged to connect with Fitness Industry Canada for further guidance on procedures, standards and other recommendations currently in development for reopening.
FIC is dedicated to supporting the sustainability of the industry by sharing helpful recommendations and guidelines to assist with the devastating impacts of COVID-19. They have been lobbying the government as well as rallying the industry to continue supporting health and wellness. FIC has also been working hard with representatives and members in each province to develop the safest practices for the reopening of fitness clubs.
Visit www.ficdn.ca for more information.