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Europe Active: moving forward together | HCM policy

Andreas Paulsen, CEO of Europe Active, reflects on the sector’s short-term challenges and long-term opportunities


Following a couple of enriching days at the Active Leadership Forum in Berlin recently, I took time to reflect on the strong community of industry leaders we have across Europe and how crucial their input will be to the success of the sector at a time of great challenges and greater opportunities.

The pandemic years have been difficult for our industry, testing our resilience and resolve. Financial resources have been strained, as have the mental wellbeing of everyone working in the industry and it’s inspiring to see how business leaders are giving special priority to rebuilding the spirit and welfare of their teams.

Reason for optimism
Consumer data from across Europe gives us reason for optimism when it comes to the post-lockdown recovery – albeit with national variations. Data from sources such as Deloitte and McKinsey are indicating strong, growing demand for personalised health services – particularly fitness and exercise – but as the European industry association, we’re aware this positive news needs to be considered in the context of a sector still in recovery mode and facing some clouds on the economic horizon.

There’s little we can do as a sector to change macro-economics, but it’s within our power to determine how we react to what life sends our way.

Strategising around factors such as consumer behaviour, inflationary pricing, staffing and digitisation is essential. We must address immediate challenges, such as energy prices, while connecting with long-term goals – integrating energy conservation measures into our green transition plans, for example.

Since the start of the pandemic we’ve seen businesses and trade associations gain renewed momentum by reinvigorating their purpose and conceiving bold strategies which take disruptive new realities into account. We’ve also experienced how conservatism and a focus on the past can be dangerous when the world is changing so fast.

In EuropeActive’s strategising, we drew inspiration from the existentialist principle that life should be understood looking backwards, but must be lived looking forwards.

Unite to thrive
In every crisis there’s potential for growth through transformational renewal and it will be imperative we utilise the same collaborative spirit and creativity that took us through the troubling first years of COVID-19. It’s also important we speak with one voice as we reposition our services as essential to public health.

Gaining essential status will be critical as consumers’ disposable incomes come under pressure. Our offering – health-enhancing physical activity – is a cost-effective, flexible personal health intervention, which suit the busy lives of contemporary Europeans, but too often people regard our service as nice-to-have leisure, rather than need-to-have health. This is a vulnerability when many are forced to cut down on non-essential services.

Making a plan
Becoming a recognised solution to today’s public health challenges is our greatest opportunity and challenge and this outcome can only be reached through collective effort by sector trade associations and commercial stakeholders.

Europe Active’s President’s Council has defined four key components needed to support our industry’s positive development:

1) Informing and evidencing
Reliable data-collection and research in collaboration with academic partners, evidencing our sector’s health and economic impact.

2) Representation
Political representation through effective public affairs work, ensuring evidenced research is recognised in health-policy-making, for example.

3) Reputation management
Strategic comms and PR on behalf of the sector, redefining our public image as a health solution.

4) Events to unify
The creation of unifying industry events, that ensure collaboration, coordination and the sharing of best-practice across the sector.

We’re fortunate to have some of our sector’s brightest minds supporting Europe Active’s long-term strategising, and I believe we’ll achieve our goals if we place these four objectives at the heart of our work.

It’s essential we take a data-based, consumer-centric approach to the development of our ecosystem, embracing everyone who’s committed to getting more people, more active, more often, knowing that greater physical activity levels in society will also mean more members of health clubs.

As we pledge to European citizens and policy-makers that our sector is ready to play a central role in preventive health, we need to assess ourselves in a constructively self-critical light. Let’s replace protectionism with proactive transformation when needed.

Uniting science and technology
European antiquity taught us the wisdom of ‘mens sana in corpore sano’ – ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’, something modern science has shown to be indisputable.


It’s also essential we demonstrate that health is not just physical, but also mental, spiritual and social.

Furthermore, technology enabled us to connect with anyone everywhere during lockdowns, with this functionality becoming critical to the continuation of our work.

Both science and technology are essential to success, with fitness and health clubs becoming valued third spaces – after home and work – in the busy lives of contemporary Europeans who know they have to invest time and money in their personal health.

Our long-term prospects as an industry are undoubtedly brighter than in the past, and our position as an important partner in building sustainable public health in Europe is more convincing than ever.

All parts of our ecosystem have important roles to play in the endeavour to make our continent’s future healthier and happier. In close collaboration with Europe Active’s national trade association partners, from Dublin to Kyiv and Helsinki to Madrid, we see it as the association’s raison d’être to connect the best of past, present and future to make sure all parts of our sector move forward, united under common guiding stars.

A brighter future

In working to deliver on the sector’s short-term success, the three most essential behaviours will be collaboration, creativity and persistence.

We’ll ride out the current storm provided we collaborate and are sensitive to the transformational winds that are pointing us towards our future horizon – a destination consumer data indicates will be brighter than before.

For this reason, we’ve set the theme of the European Health and Fitness Forum (EHFF) in April 2023 as Transformational Leadership, with speakers from academia and business. We’ll draw on data and present leadership tools to support market expansion beyond 25 per cent penetration, while taking economic turbulence into account.

We’ll also inspire participants by sharing examples of how innovative business models are mobilising new consumer segments, positioning our sector as a provider of exercise in schools, a facilitator of active ageing and a provider of fitness and exercise for medical purposes.

We’ve set the theme of the European Health and Fitness Forum 2023 as Transformational Leadership
Andreas Paulsen speaking at SIBEC 2022 / Photo: SIBEC
Europe Active strategy
More on Europe Active’s political priorities and lobbying goals

EuropeActive and its national association partners have been initiating actions aimed at securing the sector’s recovery. These include informing the sector on inflationary pricing strategies, related consumer behaviour and energy conservation, as well as ensuring policy-makers Europe-wide are aware of the detrimental effect on public health that would occur if our industry encounters additional financial hardship.

The organisation is also lobbying for reduced VAT on fitness memberships and to make exercise part of the political solution with image-building PR initiatives, such as #BeActive day.

We published the association’s strategy for 2022 to 2025 earlier this year. The plan, titled Moving Forward Together, outlines the strategic directions we intends to lead on behalf of the sector.

By publishing our strategy we aim to demonstrate a level of accountability and transparency that will engage our ecosystem to help us build and align European and national trade associations to achieve common goals.

Our aims for this decade are to become a recognised solution to public health challenges, to use digital and tech to activate European citizens to build an inclusive, environmentally-sustainable sector and to quality-assure and upskill the workforce to ensure there are sufficient qualified professionals to drive the success of operators.

These guiding stars – health, digital, community and standards – must light our path towards 2030.

Andreas Paulsen, CEO of Europe Active

We’re lobbying to reduce VAT on fitness memberships and to make exercise part of the political solution
The Europe Active Leadership Forum 2022 in Berlin / Photo: AndreasL.DE
Demand is growing for personalised health services Credit: Photo: shutterstock/muse studio
Collaboration across sectors will be key moving forward Credit: Photo: shutterstock/RossHelen
Physical activity is a cost-effective and flexible personal health intervention Credit: Photo: Shutterstock/RossHelen
The industry is committed to becoming part of the health service Credit: Photo: Shutterstock/RossHelen
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Health Club Management
2022 issue 9

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Leisure Management - Europe Active: moving forward together | HCM policy

Policy

Europe Active: moving forward together | HCM policy


Andreas Paulsen, CEO of Europe Active, reflects on the sector’s short-term challenges and long-term opportunities

Andreas Paulsen Photo: SIBEC
Demand is growing for personalised health services Photo: shutterstock/muse studio
Collaboration across sectors will be key moving forward Photo: shutterstock/RossHelen
Physical activity is a cost-effective and flexible personal health intervention Photo: Shutterstock/RossHelen
The industry is committed to becoming part of the health service Photo: Shutterstock/RossHelen

Following a couple of enriching days at the Active Leadership Forum in Berlin recently, I took time to reflect on the strong community of industry leaders we have across Europe and how crucial their input will be to the success of the sector at a time of great challenges and greater opportunities.

The pandemic years have been difficult for our industry, testing our resilience and resolve. Financial resources have been strained, as have the mental wellbeing of everyone working in the industry and it’s inspiring to see how business leaders are giving special priority to rebuilding the spirit and welfare of their teams.

Reason for optimism
Consumer data from across Europe gives us reason for optimism when it comes to the post-lockdown recovery – albeit with national variations. Data from sources such as Deloitte and McKinsey are indicating strong, growing demand for personalised health services – particularly fitness and exercise – but as the European industry association, we’re aware this positive news needs to be considered in the context of a sector still in recovery mode and facing some clouds on the economic horizon.

There’s little we can do as a sector to change macro-economics, but it’s within our power to determine how we react to what life sends our way.

Strategising around factors such as consumer behaviour, inflationary pricing, staffing and digitisation is essential. We must address immediate challenges, such as energy prices, while connecting with long-term goals – integrating energy conservation measures into our green transition plans, for example.

Since the start of the pandemic we’ve seen businesses and trade associations gain renewed momentum by reinvigorating their purpose and conceiving bold strategies which take disruptive new realities into account. We’ve also experienced how conservatism and a focus on the past can be dangerous when the world is changing so fast.

In EuropeActive’s strategising, we drew inspiration from the existentialist principle that life should be understood looking backwards, but must be lived looking forwards.

Unite to thrive
In every crisis there’s potential for growth through transformational renewal and it will be imperative we utilise the same collaborative spirit and creativity that took us through the troubling first years of COVID-19. It’s also important we speak with one voice as we reposition our services as essential to public health.

Gaining essential status will be critical as consumers’ disposable incomes come under pressure. Our offering – health-enhancing physical activity – is a cost-effective, flexible personal health intervention, which suit the busy lives of contemporary Europeans, but too often people regard our service as nice-to-have leisure, rather than need-to-have health. This is a vulnerability when many are forced to cut down on non-essential services.

Making a plan
Becoming a recognised solution to today’s public health challenges is our greatest opportunity and challenge and this outcome can only be reached through collective effort by sector trade associations and commercial stakeholders.

Europe Active’s President’s Council has defined four key components needed to support our industry’s positive development:

1) Informing and evidencing
Reliable data-collection and research in collaboration with academic partners, evidencing our sector’s health and economic impact.

2) Representation
Political representation through effective public affairs work, ensuring evidenced research is recognised in health-policy-making, for example.

3) Reputation management
Strategic comms and PR on behalf of the sector, redefining our public image as a health solution.

4) Events to unify
The creation of unifying industry events, that ensure collaboration, coordination and the sharing of best-practice across the sector.

We’re fortunate to have some of our sector’s brightest minds supporting Europe Active’s long-term strategising, and I believe we’ll achieve our goals if we place these four objectives at the heart of our work.

It’s essential we take a data-based, consumer-centric approach to the development of our ecosystem, embracing everyone who’s committed to getting more people, more active, more often, knowing that greater physical activity levels in society will also mean more members of health clubs.

As we pledge to European citizens and policy-makers that our sector is ready to play a central role in preventive health, we need to assess ourselves in a constructively self-critical light. Let’s replace protectionism with proactive transformation when needed.

Uniting science and technology
European antiquity taught us the wisdom of ‘mens sana in corpore sano’ – ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’, something modern science has shown to be indisputable.


It’s also essential we demonstrate that health is not just physical, but also mental, spiritual and social.

Furthermore, technology enabled us to connect with anyone everywhere during lockdowns, with this functionality becoming critical to the continuation of our work.

Both science and technology are essential to success, with fitness and health clubs becoming valued third spaces – after home and work – in the busy lives of contemporary Europeans who know they have to invest time and money in their personal health.

Our long-term prospects as an industry are undoubtedly brighter than in the past, and our position as an important partner in building sustainable public health in Europe is more convincing than ever.

All parts of our ecosystem have important roles to play in the endeavour to make our continent’s future healthier and happier. In close collaboration with Europe Active’s national trade association partners, from Dublin to Kyiv and Helsinki to Madrid, we see it as the association’s raison d’être to connect the best of past, present and future to make sure all parts of our sector move forward, united under common guiding stars.

A brighter future

In working to deliver on the sector’s short-term success, the three most essential behaviours will be collaboration, creativity and persistence.

We’ll ride out the current storm provided we collaborate and are sensitive to the transformational winds that are pointing us towards our future horizon – a destination consumer data indicates will be brighter than before.

For this reason, we’ve set the theme of the European Health and Fitness Forum (EHFF) in April 2023 as Transformational Leadership, with speakers from academia and business. We’ll draw on data and present leadership tools to support market expansion beyond 25 per cent penetration, while taking economic turbulence into account.

We’ll also inspire participants by sharing examples of how innovative business models are mobilising new consumer segments, positioning our sector as a provider of exercise in schools, a facilitator of active ageing and a provider of fitness and exercise for medical purposes.

We’ve set the theme of the European Health and Fitness Forum 2023 as Transformational Leadership
Andreas Paulsen speaking at SIBEC 2022 / Photo: SIBEC
Europe Active strategy
More on Europe Active’s political priorities and lobbying goals

EuropeActive and its national association partners have been initiating actions aimed at securing the sector’s recovery. These include informing the sector on inflationary pricing strategies, related consumer behaviour and energy conservation, as well as ensuring policy-makers Europe-wide are aware of the detrimental effect on public health that would occur if our industry encounters additional financial hardship.

The organisation is also lobbying for reduced VAT on fitness memberships and to make exercise part of the political solution with image-building PR initiatives, such as #BeActive day.

We published the association’s strategy for 2022 to 2025 earlier this year. The plan, titled Moving Forward Together, outlines the strategic directions we intends to lead on behalf of the sector.

By publishing our strategy we aim to demonstrate a level of accountability and transparency that will engage our ecosystem to help us build and align European and national trade associations to achieve common goals.

Our aims for this decade are to become a recognised solution to public health challenges, to use digital and tech to activate European citizens to build an inclusive, environmentally-sustainable sector and to quality-assure and upskill the workforce to ensure there are sufficient qualified professionals to drive the success of operators.

These guiding stars – health, digital, community and standards – must light our path towards 2030.

Andreas Paulsen, CEO of Europe Active

We’re lobbying to reduce VAT on fitness memberships and to make exercise part of the political solution
The Europe Active Leadership Forum 2022 in Berlin / Photo: AndreasL.DE

Originally published in Health Club Management 2022 issue 9

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