Like many key industries in Australia, the fitness industry has been crippled by the pandemic. With many businesses in Victoria and New South Wales still closed due to lockdown restrictions, it has been a time of overwhelming stress and anxiety for business owners in this sector.
Other states have had short “circuit breaker” periods of lockdown, which are challenging enough. NSW now has a roadmap for re-opening based on vaccination targets. But in Melbourne there is still no certainty for business to resume.
Another major issue for business in Victoria has been the inconsistencies in restrictions. The damage that was done in 2020 has been further compounded by the erratic nature of restrictions in 2021. We have not seen any evidence to support the erratic restrictions imposed. By the end of lockdown six Melbourne will be the most locked down city in the entire world, and that’s not a list you want to be at number one.
NSW have allowed one on one personal training to continue in outdoor settings throughout the lockdown phase. A clear recognition of the need for professional support that many Australians require for their physical and mental health.
After spending a further six weeks in lockdown Melburnians can now resume outdoor personal training from 18 September. There is still no certainty for indoor facilities opening up, even when vaccination targets are met.
Around the world the fitness industry is starting to recover, with vaccine passports working effectively in many countries. We will see similar scenarios in Australia, with governments indicating they will allow greater freedoms for vaccinated Australians. At present many industries are considering the viability of such a system, and whilst most are keen to be given the green light to open, there will be some challenges. The biggest risk initially will be establishing a system to confirm vaccination status and dealing with customers that are not vaccinated.
Fitness Australia will not mandate vaccination in our industry, and it will instead be at the discretion of individual businesses to make their decision. However, Fitness Australia does support vaccination as a way to get our industry back on track.
NSW businesses now have a clear plan to re-open once the state achieves its vaccination targets. Indoor facilities will re-open with density limits and mask rules, which will enable the fitness industry to resume supporting the health and wellbeing of Australians. However, in Victoria there is still no firm commitment from the government that allows businesses to plan for the future. A fact that is becoming increasingly difficult to tolerate. As time drags on there are more and more businesses in Victoria that will never re-open due to financial stress and health issues.
These business owners are not suffering from COVID but, instead, an ever-increasing burden of mental health challenges that will destroy their lives and careers.
Businesses in Victoria are disappearing under the harsh government restrictions. Small business is a key driver in the Australian economy, a fact well recognized at the federal level. Despite this, here in Victoria the future of many small businesses are still in the dark, with no signs of hope or future direction. Despite an ever-increasing need for their services, fitness businesses in Victoria still face uncertainty. The fitness industry remains a key part of the solution for this pandemic, allowing people to exercise in a safe and supportive environment.