Plan for the future, now
Our latest edition of RIDE HIGH includes a must-read supplement – A Global Crisis? – in which we speak to operators across Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Americas to understand the region-by-region challenges facing the fitness sector at the moment, and the strategies that might be deployed to navigate them.
Check out all our expert comments here or download a PDF of the full magazine, including the supplement, above.
Here, we share the perspective of Andreas Paulsen, CEO of EuropeActive. Interview conducted 18 October 2022.
Across Europe, we’re seeing governments collaborating and taking extraordinary steps to bring energy prices – particularly electricity and gas – under control. Political efforts are being coordinated through the EU to ensure gas reserves are full, for example, and significant political measures are being taken to bring more energy supply into the market and to temporarily cap energy company profits to quickly bring down consumer prices.
As a result, we’re seeing gas prices begin to flatten and even fall. This is likely to continue in the coming months as the EU’s domestic production of gas and other types of energy is dramatically increased, reducing reliance on import from places like Russia.
“If we bring energy under control, it is likely that the cost of living crisis can be brought under control generally”
In the current cost of energy crisis, inflation seems largely centred around energy and food supply, which in turn is directly linked to the situation in Ukraine; it is not general inflation. If we bring energy under control, it is likely that the cost of living crisis can be brought under control generally.
With this in mind, we cross our fingers that EU and national measures take effect and start to improve the situation quickly. And, of course, we appeal to everyone to take societal responsibility as citizens, reducing daily energy consumption as much as possible.
For our sector, there are significant challenges; for many businesses, they are existential. Yet even amid these challenging circumstances, we must keep fighting and stay focused on our bright future; over the next couple of years, leadership will be defined by effectively addressing current circumstances, turning challenge into opportunity.
I believe one way for our sector to get value from the current situation is to use it to inform our long-term energy and environmental sustainability. We must look at ways to cut superfluous or unnecessary energy consumption, and crucially, we must do it in dialogue with club members, communicating strategically with them both now and moving forward.
Short term, as a reaction to the current situation, I’m sure most members will understand that tough decisions have to be made. Clubs with facilities like saunas, for example, will likely have to temporarily close them. Open, honest conversations with members will be necessary.
Longer term, it’s about building sustainability into our strategies, looking at things like insulation, smart electricity, heating and water systems. Put together, they can significantly reduce energy consumption and costs. They can also be part of our collective image-building as a sector for the future.
In Denmark, for example, people are being offered government-backed loans to gradually pay back any energy costs that exceed their Q4 2021 baseline. Similar measures are being offered elsewhere in Europe. This represents a valuable opportunity to build cost-reduction measures into our longer-term strategy – starting now – and factor repayments into our recovery plans.
I see a crucial role for industry associations, too. We must actively encourage sharing of best practice among our members and partner associations across Europe, and ensure politicians understand the negative impact on population health that will result from our sector not being able to deliver its services.
I see a very positive future for our sector as we position ourselves as need-to-have health rather than nice-to-have leisure and consumer demand for personalised health and wellbeing continues to grow. But there will be challenges on the way. Overcoming the present need to balance rising energy costs against squeezed disposable income among consumers is unquestionably one of them.
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