Gym, fitness operators lose over RM110m since MCO 1.0

Coalition urges govt to allow the sector to reopen as it not only has the lowest on-site transmission rates, but also zero Covid-19 clusters to date

by S BIRRUNTHA / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

THE gym and fitness industry has estimated revenue losses of more than RM110 million since the first Movement Control Order (MCO 1.0) in March last year, according to the Malaysian Fitness Coalition.

The loose coalition of private gym owners and operators throughout Malaysia recently conducted a survey of 254 owners and operators of boutique fitness, yoga studios, mixed martial arts studios, CrossFit gyms, multinational chain operators, franchise owners, individual personal training studios and climbing gyms, among others, from 11 states as well as Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

Apart from the losses, the findings showed that gym and fitness operators also collectively spent more than RM4.5 million on sanitising, cleaning services and provision of other hygiene needs in their commitment to mitigate Covid-19 risk in their premises.

From the survey, 87% of respondents have seen their employees’ monthly gross income decline since MCO 1.0 and of that number, half said that incomes have dropped by more than 40%.

Gym and fitness operators also lamented that cash reserves will be completely depleted soon, with 41% saying that they would run out of cash for salaries, rent and utilities within 30 days.

Additionally, 30% have already laid off staff between MCO 2.0 and MCO 3.0.

More than 60% said they are very likely to lay off more staff if the restrictions on gyms and other fitness facilities continue and of that number, one-third said they are likely to lay off more than 30% of their remaining workforce.

That being said, the coalition had urged the government to reclassify the gym and fitness industry as an essential service, and prioritise the reopening of the sector at the earliest possible opportunity.

“As the nation continues to grapple with the consequences of the pandemic, much has been said and written about the immense financial burden on the people, employers and employees alike, as well as government spending.

“The pandemic also shines a light on the alarming increase in stress and mental health woes, and a long-standing issue among the Malaysian population — the prevalence of non-communicable diseases such as obesity and diabetes, which are alarmingly among the main contributors to the high number of daily Covid-19 deaths,” the coalition said in a recent statement.

It added that while many other sectors which have contributed to a growing number of Covid-19 clusters in Malaysia were allowed to continue operating, the gym and fitness sector has not only the lowest on-site transmission rates, but also produced zero Covid-19 clusters to-date.

However, the sector was not able to positively contribute to the nation’s fight against Covid-19 and reduce the burden on national healthcare spend in the long haul due to the lockdown restrictions.

The coalition emphasised that gyms and fitness facilities have among the strictest standard operating procedures (SOPs) and the lowest transmission rates by far in comparison to many other sectors.

It noted that the industry has consistently proven its ability to control crowds and maintain social distancing through its respective booking and visitation management procedures.

In fact, it said a recent survey among 254 of its industry peers showed only one reported on-site transmission for every 2.85 million visits, which evidently proves that if all SOPs are adhered to by everyone involved, gyms are a safe place to work out in.

Moreover, the coalition also believed that the gym and fitness industry cannot be lumped together with the recreational sporting sector.

“We are an economic sector on our own.

“We are a critical component in a supply chain, which includes towel suppliers, cleaning vendors, fitness equipment suppliers and more recently, sanitisation services, all of whom have already suffered dire consequences as a result of gym closures throughout the various MCO periods,” it said.

On behalf of private gym owners and fitness facility operators in Malaysia, the coalition urged the government to allow the industry to reopen.

“By letting us reopen, not only do you help us safeguard the sustainability of the fitness industry and prevent more job losses, but you also give us an opportunity to help you protect the people by doing what we do best.

“Let us help by providing an avenue for our members and customers to benefit from the protective efforts of regular physical activity, enjoy better quality of life and in the long run, drive the country’s economic stability,” it said.

Previously, as the country was slowly getting into the swing of recovery after the impact of the first MCO, the gym and fitness industry was still finding it tough to continue their business and operations.

Gyms and fitness centres were among the last sectors allowed to reopen when the government decided to ease restrictions under the Conditional and Recovery MCO to curb the spread of Covid-19.