After a traumatic year marked by sudden loss of clientele and no income, things are only just coming back to normal for the once booming fitness industry in the state.
Memberships in gyms are increasing by the day and owners of fitness studios feel confident of getting business back on track in the new year of 2021.
“With COVID cases coming down in the state and the vaccine on the horizon I see Goans flocking back to gyms by March 2021,” says Norbert D’Souza, owner, Norbert Fitness Studio, one of the largest gym chains in the state.
“Gyms in the state have started functioning again although some have closed down permanently during the lockdown. We ourselves are functioning with 50 per cent of staff to reduce the load of salaries,” says D’souza, who own 11 fitness studios in the state with the latest one at Mala, Panaji, running 24×7.
According to him, most gyms in the state are doing 40-50 per cent of the business that they did earlier. “People are still apprehensive of coming to gyms. Business is not back to normal. The crowd is not what it used to be but the situation is improving and the industry is survived the crisis.”
Gyms in the state were closed for nearly six months from March 15 to August 5, 2020. They were the first to be shut few days before lockdown along with schools, colleges, cinema houses, swimming pools and spas.
Tariq Mohamud, owner, Tripod Gym, Taleigao, says that, the long closure made him shut down one of his newly opened gym in St Inez, Panaji. “We could not afford the rentals and had to shut down our outlet,” he says.
Analysing the post-COVID scenario, he says that, the pandemic has changed the type of people coming to gyms. “Our clientele has changed. Earlier we had all age groups coming to our gyms, ranging from residents in their 20s to 60s coming to us. But now it is mostly people who are in their twenties and thirties. Our older clientele still want to come to us but they are afraid of spreading the infection to seniors and children at home,” he says.
According to Mohamud, the year 2021 will continue to be a transition period for the fitness industry. “We will come to know about full revival only by March after the vaccine hits the market,” he says.
Amidst the uncertainty about the future, Sagar Korajkar, owner, Fitness Formula, Santacruz, opened his first outlet in December 2020. He says that, his gym is going full. “Our outlet is receiving very good response. Coronavirus is taught everyone to stay fit. We are seeing full membership.”
Korajkar says that, business prospects for gym looks bright in future. “The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is our biggest cheerleader. Through his Fit India campaign he is urging everyone to get fit and boosting the prospects of gyms,” he says.
“There is a misconception in the mind of the people that if they will go to the gym the risk of contacting infection is higher. In fact until now, viz. since August 2020, we have not got any positive cases at our gyms. The situation is improving for our industry,” says Mohamud.
The center’s protocol for gyms post-lock down includes availability of sanitisers, spaced out equipment, thermal screening of staff and customers, wearing of masks, social distancing, deep sanitization after every slot, etc. Are gym managements doing all that? Most gym owners said that they are following the protocols diligently.
The unofficial opinion however is that, working out with a mask on is unadvisable and it is not possible to maintain social distancing in gyms.
For those who want to head back to their gyms, exercise builds up strength and immunity. And going to the gym is motivating. “There are many who have purchased cycles and treadmills during the pandemic. Believe me most of the equipment is lying idle at homes. People need gyms to scale up their intensity. The workout culture is set to revive with a bang,” says Korajkar.
While few gyms have closed down several others are set to open in Santacruz, Margao, Ponda and Vasco, says Korajkar.