Planning for the successful reopening of your leisure facility


With clear dates for the much-anticipated reopening of gyms and leisure facilities still unclear, there are a multitude of things to consider when getting business up and running again.

For most businesses, initial preparations will focus on adopting new practices to meet government guidelines and ensure the safe operation of your facilities. However, it is equally important to plan how you will engage and entice members back. At DFC we wanted to make it easier for our clients by putting together a guide outlining six key strategies to assist in the safe and successful reopening of gyms and leisure facilities.

Strategy 1: Let members know your reopening plans

Building and maintaining a communication channel with your members will provide you with a strong basis to encourage them back through the doors. It provides the opportunity to explain what you are doing to prepare, what to expect, and what will be happening with their membership once you reopen.

Highlighting your new operational practices and social distancing measures will reassure members who may have concerns about returning. Don’t let the heavy topic of safety regulations make you forget to create a buzz – let your members know that you can’t wait to see them again!

To get your message out as far and wide as possible, we suggest utilising all of your available channels. For example:

  • Your website
  • Email
  • Social media channels
  • SMS/text message
  • Push notifications via your app
  • Telephone
  • Direct mail
  • Banners and/or signs outside your facility

Strategy 2: Prepare for possible social distancing restrictions in place when you reopen

While you may be raring to go back to work, it will be far from business as usual, with many social distancing measures predicted to remain long after lockdown. Now is the ideal time to look to different industries and other fitness operators from elsewhere in the world as an example of how you can adapt to social distancing restrictions. These may include:

  • Reduced capacity
  • Enhanced cleaning practices
  • Layout changes
  • Additional signage and floor markings
  • Provision of hand sanitiser or wipes

If you have multiple sites, you will also need to consider how restrictions may vary by location. Permitted reopening dates may differ between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland or certain cities or counties may require temporary closures. But don’t fret, there are many useful resources published by industry bodies and organisations to find information on required restrictions and best practice, such as; ukactive, CIMSPA, and Sport England to name but a few.

Strategy 3: Re-engage members who cancelled during the closure

During the closure period, even if memberships were frozen, a portion of your members will still have cancelled their Direct Debit with banks, perhaps due to unforeseeable financial concerns or uncertainly around the future.  However, all is not lost, now is the time to get back in touch with these members to let them know your plans of reopening and encourage them to re-instate their Direct Debit payments.

To help re-engage members who feel uncomfortable about returning, or are unable to return right away, you can offer them the option of freezing their membership for a period of time once you reopen.

Strategy 4: Evaluate your membership packages

It is difficult to comprehend what the full impact of this crisis will be when we’re out the other side, but one thing is for certain – it is unlikely to return to normal for quite some time. This view is highlighted in the recent COVID-19 Impact report produced by ukactive, which reveals that reopening may receive a mixed reception by members.   

Moreover, many members will have formed new habits during the lockdown – from working out in the great outdoors to taking on home workouts. They may be looking to use your site(s) differently in the future.  

This is why now is the best time to evaluate and futureproof your membership options for existing and new members to better serve even those who are uncertain about returning. You may wish to consider:

  • Digital fitness services as part of your core packages
  • Purely digital or virtual membership options
  • Peak and off-peak options
  • Pricing strategy

Strategy 5: Build your pipeline of new members

Fitness facilities have never had a more captive audience, with medical professionals emphasising the importance of staying fit to fight against COVID-19, the opportunity exists to drive up activity levels and grow your membership base when you reopen.

Running a reopening campaign targeting new members, as well as those who have previously held memberships, will help you on your way to making a strong come back.

Campaign options could include:

  • Pre-sale and/or reopening offers, such as a discounted membership rates or the removal of joining or administration fees
  • A reopening event that will encourage new members to join up in advance in order to be a part of it, for example free giveaways, prize draws or refreshments for those visiting on reopening day
  • Advertising and PR activity targeting local publications and other influencers to show how you are adapting to new operating requirements and what is on offer for new and existing members

Strategy 6: Offer financial support to help members maintain their membership

Start planning to develop a financial support strategy to help members continue to pay their membership where they are experiencing financial hardship – or have accrued arrears before or during the closure.

Even small gestures can make a difference to members. For example, implementing a backdated freeze to provide extra time on a membership contract when reopening or offering free membership freezes for an agreed period.

Supporting members through difficult times will help them to maintain their membership once they are back on their feet again.

Our team is here to help you at this time, get in touch with our team for more information on these strategies or to find out how we can help make life easier for you.

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