January 19, 2003
The health and fitness club craze which hit the West a couple of decades back has been slowly building in South East Asia over the past decade with trendy up-market shrines to narcissism, pop music and physical health taking over from the liniment-scented jock-joints in low rental neighbourhoods of yesterday. [See also "The Global Health & Fitness Club Market 2002: Press Release" from Diagonal Reports (PDF document) and an Asia spa trends report from spamanagement.com.]
Local establishments led the charge in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok a few years back, often with a culturally-suitably "spa" theme. Later however health clubs like California Fitness Centres, pandering to local fondness for US brands, popped up in Singapore (Raffles and Orchard), and Bangkok (Liberty Square Silom), offering "...a variety of exercise classes from aerobics, kickboxing, salsa dance, martial arts to yoga..." along with other outlets in Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.
A regional Malaysian franchise - Clark Hatch Fitness Centres - already boasts a dozen centres, mainly located in high end hotels, in Malaysia, another dozen in Thailand, 3 or 4 each in Indonesia, China, Singapore, India, Japan and the Philippines, two in Vietnam and a "Life Spa" brand in yet more countries including Australia, Abu Dhabi, India and Hong Kong.
Along with coffee clubs and cigar clubs, health clubs are prime for consumption for the young health conscious trendy crowd. Health clubs have changed the demographics from primarily male to almost primarily female, targeting medium to high income young to middle age age groups who also look for socialization along with their exercise.
On the side, many hotel chain properties in the Asia Pacific are rebranding to be sporty-minded, offering video-enhanced exercise bicycles, whole floors of rooms dedicated to sporty types with energy drinks in the bar fridge and lay-z chairs just perfect for bench presses and weight lifting.
The bar has just been lifted however with yesterday's announcement from Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp, the largest chains of gyms in the USA to target South East Asia as part of global expansion plans for 2003. The company is hoping to open 20 to 35 new clubs in South East Asia in the next 5 years.
According to a Reuters report, CEO and President Paul Toback stated that "...Franchise fees and shared revenues from the planned clubs in these Asian countries would add "a couple of cents" to Bally's bottom line. - "It won't be a large percentage of our total revenue.
Toback said this franchise expansion (was) to build the company's brand in the region, where there is a burgeoning market for fitness products and services.
In Asia's sometimes smoggy, but mostly overcrowded urban cities where a jog around the park advises a gas mask and respirator, the health and fitness industry looks bright as a preventative form of the massively expanding health care in Asia.Published January 19, 2003 12:09 AM in Asia
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