Hong Kong’s battered fitness industry warns of exodus of gyms and studios if government does not step in with aid

A student wears a mask at One Yoga Studio in Central, Hong Kong. Photo via Facebook/One Yoga Studio
A student wears a mask at One Yoga Studio in Central, Hong Kong. Photo via Facebook/One Yoga Studio

Gyms and studios reopened Friday following an almost two-month closure since the third COVID-19 wave began. But for some businesses, the damage has already been done.

Goji Studios, which took over the California Fitness premises after the chain declared bankruptcy in 2017, has announced that it is closing its Whampoa branch.

The fitness chain has reportedly been sued due to being behind on rent at three other locations in Tsim Sha Tsui, Mong Kok and Kowloon Bay.

Enhale Meditation Studio, also in Central, closed its doors on August 28. The studio, which offers breath work classes and sound bath sessions, remained open during the third wave of the virus as it does not operate as a fitness center, but had to restrict its class sizes as per social distancing regulations.

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“Corona has made it challenging to gather and we’ve had to make the difficult decision to close our doors. We poured our hearts into providing a safe space but cannot continue to operate at this time,” the studio said.

Outstanding class credit refunds will be made by the end of the month, it added, and instructors will continue to offer private classes.

Read more: Gyms and massage parlors to reopen, restaurant dine-in hours extended as virus eases in Hong Kong

Just as the restaurant, tourism and retail sectors have been hit hard by the coronavirus and the strict measures to contain the outbreak, the city’s fitness industry has not been spared. Since March, gyms—seen as a high risk venue for the spread of the virus—have been closed for almost four months.

The Hong Kong Alliance of Boutique Fitness Operators, which was formed in response to the government’s lack of assistance for the battered sector, fears that this may just be the beginning of the end for many struggling businesses.

The alliance represents over 100 gyms, studios and personal training centers. At least 85 of the businesses polled say they will be forced to shut for good if they are not given a financial lifeline.

Earlier this week, representatives of the group met with lawmaker Peter Shiu to discuss the challenges the industry is facing and appeal for government compensation.

A video of personal trainers and instructors holding placards reading “Save Hong Kong fitness” has also been shared dozens of times on Instagram.

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“Many small gym and studios are bleeding and there are once successful brand names that we have seen for many years, close its doors,” Tricia Yap, who owns R3 Personal Training and helped set up the alliance, wrote in an Instagram post.

“Our businesses rely on a package or pay as you go model – which means when doors open today, we play catch up on the packages and class packs that have been paused… and it will mean that costs will still outweigh revenue for awhile longer,” she added.

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