EuropeActive hosted its 9th annual European Health and Fitness Forum (EHFF) on Wednesday, 6th April in Cologne, Germany, in front of an audience of over 450 industry representatives and stakeholders. This year’s theme 'Moving Forward Together - Collaborating to rebuild and renew the fitness & physical activity sector' focused on our industry’s future beyond the COVID-19 pandemic as well as major business opportunities and main challenges in the years to come.
 
The EHFF began with an applause from the audience to contemplate the shared values underpinning the struggles we have witnessed over the last few weeks regarding the ongoing situation in the Ukraine. EuropeActive President David Stalker introduced RX Austria & Germany CEO Benedikt Binder-Krieglstein and the EHFF moderator and EuropeActive Board Member Jennifer Halsall, who welcomed the audience: "We’ve got such a power-packed agenda for the EHFF I will let the line-ups speak for themselves. The European Health and Fitness Market Report, Fitness Trends Panel Discussion with global experts, the launch of the European Data Hub, Inclusion in Action in our sector, the Future Fitness Consumer, the FIBO Awards and our famous Networking Dinner are just some of the happenings!".
 
The European Health & Fitness Market Report 2022
 
Taking the lead for the first session was EuropeActive Ambassador Herman Rutgers and Karsten Hollasch from Deloitte sharing the key findings from the European Health & Fitness Market Report 2022 and underscoring the increase of number of clubs and memberships in 2021: "European memberships increased by roughly 1 million members or 2% from 55.2 million in 2020 to 56.3 million by year end 2021. The total number of fitness clubs slightly increased (0.2%) from 63,059 in 2020 to 63,173 in 2021" said Karsten Hollasch.
 
State of the Industry, Trends and Innovation
 
Moderators Barbara Smit of Fitness News Europe and David Stalker went on to engage in discussion with Kirsty Angove (Trib3), Silje Garberg Ree (SATS), Neil Randall (Anytime Fitness) and Fabian Menzel (XTRAFIT) about the State of the Industry and 2022 Trends based on the survey EuropeActive ran among their membership in January 2022.
 
The panel focused on club operators' key priorities moving forward including the acceleration towards digitalisation, how to adapt to what clients want within this changing culture of hybrid working and working from home, recruitment and keeping staff motivated, pricing and developing business models, among others.
 
SATS' Silje Garberg Ree said that while digitalisation means new opportunities, she also acknowledged the challenges: "it's not just about fitness clubs anymore, the competition is really increasing. We have to broaden our scope, which will allow us to reach new clients”. Trib3's Kirsty Angove added that operators have to ensure "we don't lose the personal touch with increasing digitalisation”.
 
4global Chief Product Officer Utku Toprakseven took the audience through a session on the innovative, ground-breaking and collaborative initiative that is the European Data Hub: "The main objective of the European DataHub is to provide EuropeActive and partners with the data and insight to demonstrate the scale, impact and value of the European Health and Fitness Market. The project aims to build a digital ecosystem that aggregates data from across the sector while developing common data standards to allow consistent analysis and reporting. 4global will share the main principles, current status and value proposition of the European DataHub for operators, national association and technology partners through use cases and key benefits.”, he explained. 
 
FITcert.eu: A game-changer for the fitness sector
 
The EHFF moved on to one of the key presentations of the day: FITcert.eu, the new European fitness club certification scheme. The session highlighted the impressive success rate it has already enjoyed in its trial period with 340 clubs taking part from 9 different European countries in the trial, (as the sample is of multi-site operators, they actually covered over 1,800 clubs.) The CEOs of leading clubs that took part in the FITcert trial of stages 1 and 2 were presented with their EuropeActive Recognised Club certificates. The 340 clubs came from Basic-Fit, PureGym, Fit For Free, GO fit, Solinca, Urban Fit, Sport City, EVO (Norway), The Gym Group, David Lloyd Leisure and Fit&Sund. A two-minute video explaining FITcert underlined the importance of having such a scheme to ensure the highest quality for our sector, and for the millions of our users. 
 
"It is being called a ‘game-changer’ for the sector because the scheme is quality managed by the Royal Netherlands Standards Institute (NEN) in cooperation with international inspection bodies including KIWA, SGS and TÜV. FITcert is rapidly becoming a clearly identifiable and respected brand mark and includes a public register of certified clubs. The COVID pandemic showed the importance for the fitness sector to be more clearly defined and recognised to explain its political and economic position with governments, health authorities, insurers, and in courts of law”, said EuropeActive Senior Advisor Cliff Collins.
 
A more inclusive sector for all 
 
Chair of the EuropeActive Inclusion Advisory Group Catherine Edmunds moderated the ‘Achieving Greatly: Inclusion in Action’ panel alongside Maike Kumstel (Sport Alliance), Grace McNamara (EXI Theraputics), Clive Ormerod (Les Mills) and Wladimir Römmich (Westpark Fitness). 
 
Highlighting the importance and benefits of having a more diverse and inclusive fitness and physical activity sector, panel members delved into the value of continued learning, measuring the impact of inclusion policies, the importance of accountability, and the crucial role of data. 
 
"Fitness is for everybody, it is even more important for our sector to have a diverse set of staff that mirror the world we are in” said Maike Kumstel. Clive Ormerod recognised the challenges to making the fitness and physical activity sector more inclusive, but stated that "it is so essential to the future of our sector and the future of our business”. Where to begin? "A more honest conversation is the place to start, to figure out what we need to work on and what help to provide” according to Grace McNamara.
 
The Future of the Fitness Consumer
 
The penultimate session of the day was ‘The Future of the Fitness Consumer’ panel moderated by Jennifer Halsall featuring Emma Barry (Good Soul Hunting), Ian Mullane (keepme.ai) and Andreas Paulsen (EuropeActive) taking a closer look at the fitness consumer and the changes we can expect over time.
 
Ian Mullane drew attention to the way mental health is now prized and highly valued by customers, arguably even more than physical health, while Emma Barry pointed out that the fitness sector has broadened over the last 2 years: "Fitness became health and wellness". Panelists shared the view that the COVID-19 pandemic led to a shift where the customer is now at the center of everything. Andreas Paulsen stated "COVID-19 has made clear the strengths and weaknesses of our sector and the paradigm shifts that are needed- and one of them is the consumer focus."
 
A fascinating panel which explored hot topics such as personalisation, digitalisation and innovation and the ways these intersect with what fitness consumers want.
 
The Global Fitness Sector 
 
The new EuropeActive's book 'The Global Fitness Sector' was officially launched in a presentation given by Technogym Founder & President Nerio Alessandri and BlackBox Publishers CEO Kelby Jongen. The publication is a unique, massive reference work that has been created through 30 years of research. The Global Fitness Sector contains 150.000 words, over 300 figures and images, more than 500 references, and weights 3kg.
 
The day culminated with EHFF moderator Jennifer Halsall and EuropeActive CEO Andreas Paulsen wrapping-up the event by thanking EuropeActive and FIBO teams, speakers and audience for showing up and investing in our sector. 
 
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Apr 6, 2022 By Pauline Joskin