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features

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

Published in Health Club Management 2022 issue 9

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
Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
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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

Published in Health Club Management 2022 issue 9

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
Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
Gallery
More features
Editor's letter

Into the fitaverse

Fitness is already among the top three markets in the metaverse, with new technology and partnerships driving real growth and consumer engagement that looks likely to spill over into health clubs, gyms and studios
Fit Tech people

Ali Jawad

Paralympic powerlifter and founder, Accessercise
Users can easily identify which facilities in the UK are accessible to the disabled community
Fit Tech people

Hannes Sjöblad

MD, DSruptive
We want to give our users an implantable tool that allows them to collect their health data at any time and in any setting
Fit Tech people

Jamie Buck

Co-founder, Active in Time
We created a solution called AiT Voice, which turns digital data into a spoken audio timetable that connects to phone systems
Profile

Fahad Alhagbani: reinventing fitness

The team is young and ambitious, and the awareness of technology is very high. We share trends and out-of-the-box ideas almost every day
Opinion

Building on the blockchain

For small sports teams looking to compete with giants, blockchain can be a secret weapon explains Lars Rensing, CEO of Protokol
Innovation

Bold move

Our results showed a greater than 60 per cent reduction in falls for individuals who actively participated in Bold’s programme
App analysis

Check your form

Sency’s motion analysis technology is allowing users to check their technique as they exercise. Co-founder and CEO Gal Rotman explains how
Profile

New reality

Sam Cole, CEO of FitXR, talks to Fit Tech about taking digital workouts to the next level, with an immersive, virtual reality fitness club
Profile

Sohail Rashid

My vision was to create a platform that could improve the sport for lifters at all levels and attract more people, similar to how Strava, Peloton and Zwift have in other sports
Ageing

Reverse Ageing

Many apps help people track their health, but Humanity founders Peter Ward and Michael Geer have put the focus on ageing, to help users to see the direct repercussions of their habits. They talk to Steph Eaves
App analysis

Going hybrid

Workout Anytime created its app in partnership with Virtuagym. Workout Anytime’s Greg Maurer and Virtuagym’s Hugo Braam explain the process behind its creation
Research

Physical activity monitors boost activity levels

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have conducted a meta analysis of all relevant research and found that the body of evidence shows an impact
Editor's letter

Two-way coaching

Content providers have been hugely active in the fit tech market since the start of the pandemic. We expect the industry to move on from delivering these services on a ‘broadcast-only’ basis as two-way coaching becomes the new USP
Fit Tech People

Laurent Petit

Co-founder, Active Giving
The future of sports and fitness are dependent on the climate. Our goal is to positively influence the future of our planet by instilling a global vision of wellbeing and a sense of collective action
Fit Tech People

Adam Zeitsiff

CEO, Intelivideo
We don’t just create the technology and bail – we support our clients’ ongoing hybridisation efforts
Fit Tech People

Anantharaman Pattabiraman

CEO and co-founder, Auro
When you’re undertaking fitness activities, unless you’re on a stationary bike, in most cases it’s not safe or necessary to be tied to a screen, especially a small screen
Fit Tech People

Mike Hansen

Managing partner, Endorphinz
We noticed a big gap in the market – customers needed better insights but also recommendations on what to do, whether that be customer acquisition, content creation, marketing and more
More features