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Barclays says UK set for £3.5 billion boost from leisure, fitness and spa industries

94 per cent of leisure, fitness, spa and hospitality operators are confident about growth this year following a post-lockdown surge in trade
The sectors' contribution to GDP will be £3.5bn higher between April and December than it was in 2019
More than 91 per cent of operators are prioritising ‘healthy’ products within their portfolios
Research was undertaken by Barclays Corporate Banking division
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New research by Barclays Corporate Banking reveals that the leisure, fitness, spa and hospitality industries are bouncing back and look likely to contribute £3.5b (€4bn, US$4.7) more to the nation’s GDP this year than in 2019.

Based on projected sales figures for the period from April to December 2021 – when the sectors have largely been open again – this equates to £3.5bn more in Gross Value Added (GVA) than in the equivalent period in 2019.

In a new report published today, called Leisure Rediscovered, Barclays’ data shows that the vast majority of businesses (94 per cent) are confident about their growth prospects for this year following a post-lockdown surge in trade.

Gym and leisure centre managers are most likely to be very confident (45 per cent), with spas and wellness retreats (42 per cent) also especially positive.

For gyms and spas, recovery was gradual following lockdown, but by the year-end they still predict significant revenue rises of 18 per cent over 2019 levels for spas and wellness centres, and 24 per cent for gyms and leisure centres.

The paper reports that this is borne out by reports of a widespread surge in gym memberships to pre-pandemic levels by autumn, with many operators seeking extra premises due to demand,and PureGym exploring IPO options.

New habits

The research also reveals new patterns in the way people are accessing hospitality and leisure services and changing consumer habits.

– Health and wellbeingFindings show that healthy living choices, already on the increase in the UK before COVID-19 struck, have been further boosted as lockdown enabled people to reflect on their lifestyles and their physical and mental health.

More than nine in ten (91 per cent) operators are now prioritising ‘healthy’ products among their portfolios.

On average, consumers are prepared to pay 19.9 per cent extra for healthier food and drink options, and 17.8 per cent for accommodation that includes health and wellbeing services, such as a gym or spa.

Unsurprisingly, many consumers are expressing strong preferences for services that are also safe and healthy. There are also significant numbers, chiefly among younger groups, who are keen to find experiences that have a strong element of sustainability.

Barclays’ report claims its modelling indicates significant returns for operators that can fulfil these preferences.

– Domestic tourism

The report also explored the trend of local tourism – in particular staycations and how more people have been encouraged to make more use of local entertainment in their own neighbourhoods than before.

Operators have noted this trend, with 32 per cent reporting a rise in customers local to the area since the reopening of hospitality.

Shifts in customer bases have also become obvious – 42 per cent of spas and wellness retreats say they now attract more male customers, while holiday lets (47 per cent) have welcomed more younger customers and 47 per cent of pubs and 42 per cent of bars have seen an increase in families through their doors versus pre-pandemic times.

The report suggests providers across the leisure industries can capitalise on the willingness of customers to try new experiences by adapting their offering to keep these new demographics coming back for more.

– TechnologyIn light of the pandemic, the vast majority of businesses responded by digitising their offerings to maintain a connection with customers, delivering virtual offerings and optimising their operations.

Over one-third of survey respondents (34 per cent) said that this pivot to digital had positively impacted their business – 41 per cent of gyms concurred and said they’re especially likely to say that the pandemic’s acceleration of tech has changed their lives for the better.

A bright future

Mike Saul, head of hospitality and leisure at Barclays Corporate Banking, said: “Our findings show an industry brimming with confidence and buoyed by surging revenues.

“However, it’s also an industry that’s undergoing a substantial amount of change – from the customers it serves to the products it sells.

“We’ve uncovered strong evidence that, particularly for younger customers, operators will need to place increased focus on healthy, sustainable and safe product ranges and to maintain investment in data and technology.

“While the industry is navigating some short-term challenges around supply chains and labour shortages, operators that prioritise these areas will be an incredibly strong position for the long-term.”

About the reportBarclays carried out the report in late July and early August 2021. Over 2,008 respondents were surveyed, including 524 senior managers in leisure businesses with 10 or more employees.

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New research by Barclays Corporate Banking reveals that the leisure, fitness, spa and hospitality industries are bouncing back and look likely to contribute £3.5b (€4bn, US$4.7) more to the nation’s GDP this year than in 2019.