Gym, sports venues see slow recovery despite easing of restrictions

The industry is moving at a slow pace after reopening as many people are still finding it hard to adjust to the new normal

by S BIRRUNTHA / source: Sportizza’s Facebook page

GYM and sports venue operators continue to feel the crunch despite the green light given to operate under the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO), as patrons decide to stay home following the alarming increase in Covid-19 cases in the past few weeks.

Gyms in Kuala Lumpur (KL), Selangor and Putrajaya were ordered to close again due to the Conditional MCO (CMCO) but were allowed to reopen on Oct 19.

While certain restrictions have been relaxed to help the industry gain back its momentum, many operators still fear their businesses will not be the same again.

Sportizza Sdn Bhd, a multi-sports venue operator, said business is moving at a slow pace after reopening as many people are still finding it hard to adjust to the new normal.

Its GM Scott Lee said the facility is not seeing a full-force comeback due to the spike in Covid-19 cases lately.

“Some people are still unsure and hesitant to come out and play sports. They are looking after their safety first, which is a good thing.

“But on the other hand, we do see people who love playing futsal willing to come back regularly and play at our venue. So, we are looking at it positively and it is still better than nothing,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently.

He noted that Sportizza has been setting up small-scale tournaments and programmes to make up for the losses and empty slots due to the impact from the pandemic.

He added that since the government has allowed sports premises to operate until 2am, Sportizza has offered various special midnight promotions to bring people back to its facility.

In terms of complying to the standard operating procedures (SOPs), Lee said most visitors have been cooperative, but there are a stubborn few who still neglect the regulations.

“As the operator, we have to stand firm with the SOPs because this is a life and death matter. So, if the customer does not comply with the SOPs, we are willing to lose the booking fee rather than risking the health of our patrons or paying fines to the government,” he added.

Camp5 has seen an increase in interest for its introduction courses among new climbers – source: camp5.com

Meanwhile, Camp5 Climbing Gym MD Jeremy Peet said the reopening of its facilities on June 15 was initially challenging, as they had to develop new applications and procedures, as well as educate members on the new SOPs which included mandatory online reservation.

He said for this reason, the gym had intentionally cut its capacity limit to be more conservative.

“With time, as we became more fluid with the new processes and had the opportunity to gauge the confidence of our customers, we opened up more of our programmes and services, while still remaining well within the capacity requirements of the government,” he told TMR in an email reply.

Peet added that for most of the outlets, the capacity limit was not overly restrictive, as its facilities are large, typically around 20,000 sq ft.

Camp5 has outlets in 1 Utama Shopping Centre and Utropolis Marketplace in Selangor; Eco City Mall and Sungei Wang Plaza in KL and Paradigm Mall in Johor Baru.

However, he said the facilities felt the most impact with the loss of schools and corporate programmes, as they had their own SOPs in place which prevented them from reactivating their programmes.

“More recently we have seen an easing-off of these restrictions and slowly, schools and company team building programmes are gaining interest,” he noted.

Peet also said the facility has seen an increase in interest for its introduction courses among new climbers, as many people spent time under quarantine.

“Climbers are, by nature of their activity, largely risk tolerant. We participate in a sport where the risks are apparent and we have learned through experience that with the right equipment and safety strategies in place, such risks do not prevent us from doing what we love.

“I believe many of our climbers apply the same mindset with respect to the risk of Covid-19,” he said.

He added that members were confident and eager to return to Camp5, once they had placed reasonable measures such as capacity limits, maintaining social distancing and minimising person-to-person contact. Camp5’s KL and Selangor outlets are still closed under the CMCO.

Anytime Fitness Asia regional marketing manager Jap Angeles said at first, the gym saw a slow return of foot traffic, but now it has been increasing to more than what was expected.

“We are optimistic about the resumption of operations. Both our staff and members are still getting used to the new set of safety measures, but we are dedicated to making sure that they are implemented correctly,” he told TMR.

He added that although the facility had to reduce the number of people according to the SOPs set by the government, it is continuing to offer group classes and physical training without worrying too much about capacity control.

“We believe this is crucial in ensuring safety, which is our top priority. The new safety measures implemented in our gyms have been introduced even before we reopened,” he said.

Angeles noted that this gave members a chance to be familiar with the safety steps before coming back to the gym.

Nevertheless, he said the gym is expecting more sign-ups from new members, as more people are health conscious and realising that working out can boost their immune system in a time of a global health crisis.

Meanwhile, Fixme Studio Gym noted that two out of its three core programmes had to be put on hold due to space and time constraints to observe the physical-distancing rule.

Its owner and certified personal trainer Adilin Ali said after the three-month closure, only one core programme — which is a six-week body transformation programme — is currently being held for its clients.

“We are also stricter in terms of expenditure while being more agile by collaborating with our business partners, such as food suppliers and spa.

“This is to ensure we are still able to provide the best services to our clients despite financial limitations,” she told TMR in a phone interview.

Adilin said as long as the SOP is in place, everyone can work out without fear with the #kitajagakita concept in mind.

She added that she is thankful for the loyal clients who are continuously enrolling themselves in the programmes and the gym is expecting more newcomers and returnees to join the facility.

The government had allowed the reopening of the sports-related business sector, such as gymnasium, sports complex, indoor courts and snooker centres on June 15.

However, operators were required to fill out a form to notify on the opening of their respective premises through the Ministry of International Trade and Industry’s website for reference on the SOPs and for monitoring purposes by the Youth and Sports Ministry.

The government’s more recent green light for sports-related premises to open until 2am was made after many operators had complained that visitors only come to play after Maghrib or Isyak prayers, and by then there were many groups waiting in line for their turns.