The good intentions for the new year or the fat rose from the holiday. Both make sure that registrations for the gym in January increase – normally. But everything will be different again in 2022 because of Corona.
Now of all time, in the middle of the main season of fitness training, the Omikron variant is creating uncertainty. People are also sad, says Alex Stampoulidis of the Baden-Württemberg State Association for Bodybuilding and Fitness eV.
Corona rules confuse customers
In his gym in Schorndorf (Rems-Murr-Kreis) and nationally, 2G + applies, ie. vaccinated, recovered and tested – initially for everyone. However, there were always exceptions: for example, those who have been boosted should no longer pass a negative test. At times, this also applied to individuals whose last necessary individual vaccination was no longer than six months ago. Then there was another adjustment from one day to the next – the six months became three months due to a new recommendation from Stiko.
“People just laugh at it, they do not understand it at all. 90 percent of people say, ‘What is it? Two weeks ago it was said that it was valid for six months, vaccines after five months, now it is vaccinated from three months’ “. For him as an entrepreneur, this is “extremely stressful” because he is “in front of the government and my clients’ fronts”. He needs to convince them that they are still motivated.
Abandoned contracts – no income
For the Omikron variant also scares many, “because the media is now pushing it so extremely hard,” he says. Of course the numbers went up, it does not make things neat. Only at the beginning of the week did two fully vaccinated members close their contract due to the Omicron variant.
The German Association of Fitness and Health (DIGF) expected only 9.5 million members nationwide at the turn of the year, just over two million fewer than in the pre-crisis year 2019 (11.6 million). The loss of members is one thing, closed contracts another. Because these currently provide operators with no revenue. “Abandoned contracts are like terminated members,” Stampoulidis says. The step back in is easier for these members, but right now it is not helping the gyms.
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He does not have exact figures on how many fitness studios in Baden-Württemberg have given up in recent months. He only notes that furniture from other studies is being offered over and over again and suspects that many simply stopped before filing for bankruptcy. Nationwide, it sounds like despite huge sales losses in the crisis year 2020, there was no wave of bankruptcies because politicians granted large sums in financial support.
Challenge: staff shortage
When the gyms get more influx again, the next big challenge for the operators is: finding staff. According to the DIGF, around 190,000 people are still employed in gyms across Germany. However, that is 40,000 fewer than a year ago. Stampoulidis fears: “If it really starts and you do not find any staff, then it will be even more critical for us.”
Gyms as a social place
Especially for his older customers, the fitness center is more than a place to play sports: “It’s a place of communication, and if they can not get here, then they lack social contact.” According to Stampoulidis, older people in particular have fewer opportunities to make social contacts. This is another reason why studies are important.
“Hope dies last”
Despite Omikron, 2G + and suspended memberships, Stampoulidis is confident. He is waiting for the spring season and hopes despite all regulations on influx to be able to breathe a sigh of relief. “Hope dies last,” he says. “We will definitely continue to fight.”