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From ageing populations in Australia and New Zealand to new technologies and changing cultural norms, the environment leisure providers operate in today is vastly different to the one many of us came to know a decade ago.

Add to that the social distancing and pandemic fears of 2020, and it’s clear that being able to change with the times is a necessary survival skill in our industry.

We spoke to our resident expert, Jonas Leisure Customer Success Manager Dushayant Dhar, to get his thoughts on what it will take for gyms and leisure centres to thrive in the years ahead.

Make online booking simple

Perhaps the most basic test of a modern facility is whether information about it can be found easily, and whether its services can be booked online by members from the comfort of home.

People’s busy lives mean they are often trying to do multiple things at once. It’s not uncommon for people to book in online for a spin class while they are catching a train to work, or even during a short break in a corporate meeting.

“Being able to book courses and spaces at your facility online, rather than only in person or over the phone, can be the difference between a member coming for a class or not,” Mr Dhar says.

“Online bookings can also take some of the strain off staff and add to the user experience, creating a point of difference over your less advanced competition.”

A recent upgrade to Jonas Leisure’s premier leisure management solution, Envibe, has added an optional Online Courses Module. The module makes it possible for leisure centre and swim school customers to self-manage their memberships, enrolments, bookings and payments online from any device. It also allows online team registration for customers that want to register their team for sports leagues run at facilities.

Jonas Leisure’s other software solutions – Centaman and Gladstone – also offer online payment functionality.

“Whatever platform you use, making online booking simple will be one of the absolute foundations to success,” Mr Dhar says.

Accessible, inclusive spaces

The leisure centre of the future will need to cater for an even wider range of interests and demographics. Not only will you want to have leading-edge facilities and modern technology that is energy-smart and safe, but you will also want to ensure your facility is set up in a way that enables effective hygiene and social distancing measures to be implemented to combat COVID-19 or any future viruses.

Mr Dhar says Australian and New Zealand society is increasingly diverse and there are changing expectations with regards to how a facility should be set up to cater for the needs of its public.

“Many modern facilities are being designed with family changing rooms, in addition to traditional men’s and women’s changing areas. Unisex and gender-neutral toilets are also increasingly common.”

He says accessibility will also be key, and any modern facility will want to consider whether it adequately caters for people who are in wheelchairs or are otherwise less mobile. This applies to the spaces within a facility – such as swimming pools – as well as the access control gates in a facility’s lobby area.

“Our populations in Australia and New Zealand are ageing, so it’s also important to ensure that the facilities, programmes and group fitness classes you offer cater for those at the higher end of the age spectrum, and not just younger people.”

State of the art entrance control

The gates at the entrance to a leisure facility are the first impression visitors and members get, so it’s important that they look good and work reliably. By preventing tailgaters and helping to minimise unauthorised sharing of cards, an effective entrance control system can both maximise revenue and help to protect the safety and possessions of facility users.

There is a huge variety of entrance control solutions available, from turnstiles and swing gates to portals and even speedgates featuring biometric scanning technology that enables access based on a user’s fingerprints rather than an access card.

“A modern facility should have gates that integrate seamlessly with the leisure management system being used. This allows facility managers to turn access on and off based on an individual’s membership status, and it also enables valuable data to be gathered to provide insights into when a facility is most utilised.”

Mr Dhar says the Centaman Entrance Control gates used by many facilities in Australia and New Zealand are a prime example of a system that can be set up to interface with popular leisure management software solutions, such as Gladstone, Centaman and Envibe. Gantner access control systems also enable integration with many leisure management systems.

Real time reporting on visitor data

Another critical aspect of any future-proofed leisure facility is its ability to gather and utilise data for continuous improvement.

“If you have easy access to information about when your facility is best utilised, which of your classes are most popular, and the times of day when different spaces in your facility are most used, you can then begin to make intelligent business decisions about staffing, future upgrades and class programming,” Mr Dhar says.

Facilities of the future will be able to gather this information automatically, and then call it up in easy to use reports whenever it might be needed. Mr Dhar says Jonas Leisure’s leisure management software platforms are an ideal choice for these purposes, especially when integrated with compatible entrance control gates and other security solutions.

Contact tracing in the age of COVID

Any modern and responsible leisure facility will want to enable contact tracing of visitors while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a threat globally.

In New Zealand, the display of a QR code for use with the Government’s NZ COVID Tracer app is mandatory for all businesses, so Kiwi leisure facilities should already be displaying this make contact tracing easier in the event that there is another outbreak of the virus in the community.

Among Australian facilities, one of the best-known contact tracing solutions for gyms and leisure centres is Jonas Leisure’s Visitance tool. This free solution uses QR codes displayed prominently at a facility to make gathering visitor details in a secure way easy. This simplifies the process of contacting members and other visitors simple if they need to be notified of a COVID-19 case at a facility they have been at. Visitance also allows a real-time count of visitors in the facility can be displayed on screens at reception, making enforcing any social distancing requirements easier.

“In many Australian states we’ve claimed victory over the virus, only for it to frustratingly re-emerge,” Mr Dhar says. “The same goes for New Zealand – it’s clear that we will have to be on our guard for a while yet, so it pays to use the best tools for the job.”

A thriving digital community

Last, but by no means least, building a strong community among leisure centre and gym users will be vital in coming years.

While this has always been important, Mr Dhar says the facilities that succeed in the years ahead will take this a step further by offering some classes remotely and enabling members to continue interacting with the facility and each other via tools that facilitate digital connection.

Some facilities are already doing this using the Fitnexus app, which launched in Australia and New Zealand late last year. Designed specifically for gyms and health clubs, Fitnexus allows members to view each other’s profiles, send real time messages, and compete in friendly challenges. It also enables users to access their training programmes and progress via an app on their phone, view the latest gym announcements and book in and schedule classes.

Many other leisure management solutions also include features that make building community and keeping in touch with members easiest. For example, Envibe offers a range of built-in membership communications tools, including trigger messaging which enables automated emails or SMS messages to be sent to members at key points – such as when they first join up, or when their credit card associated with their account is about to expire. Tools like these can also take the load off your staff, freeing them up to interact and build connections with customers face to face when they are on site.

Time to upgrade?

If you want to know more Jonas Leisure’s future-focused leisure management software solutions, please feel free to contact our friendly customer support team.