The fitness industry has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic, leaving hundreds of thousands of employees jobless as gyms are closed.
“We are a group that has been hit very hard by this pandemic, but largely left out of any government assistance,” said Chris Craytor, board member for International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) at FOX Business.
While restaurants and hotels received specific waivers in the first PPP loan package, fitness centers did not, Craytor explained.
“We have a pretty similar employee base, with a number of part-time and full-time employees,” Craytor said. “While we are not as big as these industries, we are also quite important because what we do is keep people healthy. And now is probably never the best time to be healthy and lead a healthy lifestyle.
Craytor, who is also president and chief operating officer of acac Fitness & Wellness, a regional chain of fitness clubs in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, said that without government help, 25% of fitness companies in United States is expected to close permanently this year. .
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On Monday, the IHRSA sent a letter to Congress outlining the job losses and the long-term effects of the pandemic on the fitness industry. The association also called on lawmakers to pass legislation that would give the industry long-term financial support, including allowing mid-sized health and fitness chains to access PPP loans.
According to the letter, the fitness industry would have lost $ 7 billion in revenue until July 1.
The letter also stated that 489,000 fitness workers were unable to work in states such as Michigan, New York, Washington, North Carolina, Arizona and California, due to state-imposed closures.
Another 280,500 employees could soon be out of work again in Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania if those states order fitness centers to close a second time – as expected, according to the IHRSA.
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The uncertainty over whether gyms will be allowed to reopen and stay open is a huge challenge for the industry, Craytor said.
“We don’t know when [government regulation is] is going to be enabled or disabled, that can happen at any time, ”Craytor said. “This uncertainty has been really tough on our workforce… Once you shut down again, anyone who came back to you is now immediately back out of work and with the current stimulus, we really don’t know how long that is. will last. ”
This is especially difficult because many fitness center owners are “small regional or local players,” Craytor said.
“These are people who have built their businesses from scratch,” he said. “They’re small business owners, they’re not big business owners. These are small businesses that will just disappear. ”
“I think what we’re going to hear is that these jobs are disappearing and they are not coming back,” he added. “Where are these people going to work?”
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Even in the midst of the pandemic, fitness centers and gyms are still doing their best to stay afloat.
“I think a lot of clubs are doing absolutely everything they can to maintain their membership and membership, whether it’s offering virtual lessons, renting their equipment or even doing things outside. if they’re not allowed to open their doors, ”Craytor says. “So our clubs across the country are pivoting very quickly, but that doesn’t replace their core business in any way. So what we do is hang on. And what we do is try to make sure we survive.
Ultimately, the fitness industry needs outside help, he added.
“I think we really need people to recognize that this is a really important industry that serves billions of visits per year and millions of employees and 40,000 locations across the country and that has been largely ignored, ”Craytor said.
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