The definition of trust is “the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something else”. Trust is earned, not given, and can be broken when the reliability or truth becomes in question. Recent surveys and feedback taken from hundreds of clubs has brought forth an issue far more detrimental to our industry than Covid, the lack of belief from members, former members, and governmental decision makers.
It began with some clubs, probably desperate for income, immediately billed members or gave deadlines for them to return. Nearly 70% of club goers stated they were unhappy with how this process was handled. Maybe owners didn’t realize it could not be business as usual moving forward. Or maybe they were desperate for lost income. Or maybe they didn’t realize health is important to people… health clubs are not. The result was quite obvious as it set the tone for what was to come.
Generally speaking clubs are reporting 50-60% of their original member base has returned to some form of activity in active living facilities. 21% of former club goers left to go to another facility while 41% of former members chose to workout independent of a club membership. As for the returning and loyal members, 23% stated they have concern with entities sustaining a safe environment while nearly 50% stated they lacked confidence that staff members would effectively enforce distancing, masking, and other safety protocols.
Throughout this pandemic we’ve heard of how the fitness industry, like restaurants and bars, were unfairly singled out and either limited or shut down beyond reason. We saw multi-purpose facilities, who service thousands of users, forced to operate under the same guidelines as boutique fitness entities who serve hundreds. Most embarrassingly, we saw our industry grouped with casinos with regards to general guidelines of how to operate. This is all the result of political leaders lacking knowledge, lacking respect, and lacking trust in how our industry has operated.
And lastly, while industry PSA’s continue to put forth how safe clubs are and “less than 1% of users have contracted Covid”, a recent study concluded that 20% of clubs surveyed have reported staff members contracting the virus, but did not disclose this information. However, club members stated the information was uncovered through social media whispers and community gossip. This further eroded confidence. Again, opportunities to earn trust turn into severing relationships.
It’s not all like this. There are hundreds of clubs throughout the country doing the right thing. Reference Weymouth Club’s “we are safe” campaign, Renaissance Athletic Club in Michigan, Big Lagoon Rancheria in California, and the Upper Valley Aquatic Center in Vermont. They pay the price for what shortcuts other clubs are taking. And whether it is lack of knowledge, lack of ability, or lack of available funds, the unfortunate trend of shortcutting procedures that are needed to maintain safety is on the rise.
Social distancing is really an oxymoron, isn’t it? It’s like saying bittersweet, amazingly awful, or foolish wisdom. It’s the antithesis of what a club community strives to be. Safety and cleanliness have always been a cornerstone for well-run facilities. This helps build a brand that members and guests trust. The essence of a healthy club community is trust. Trust in the fact they mean what they say, and say what they mean. Trust that there are no shortcuts being taken. Trust that they are truly a supportive force in the well-being of their community. Yes the industry is on its heels… Covid isn’t the only reason why. The response to Covid from our industry is.