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FITNESS


VIRTUAL REALITY


Virtual group exercise classes could be an ideal solution for spas which want to spice up their fitness offering with minimal effort. Rasmus Ingerslev takes a look at this growing trend


RASMUS INGERSLEV, CEO, WEXER VIRTUAL V


irtual exercise classes is a trend that’s been picked up fast by health club and fitness operators and it’s one that could easily be implemented in spas. But


what is it exactly: how can it be used, how does it work and what is its value?


A STRONG LOGIC Let’s start with the why. Imagine investing in 30 treadmills and turning them off for 80 to 90 per cent of the day. It wouldn’t make sense. Yet this is what’s happening in group exercise studios in spas which are not used the majority of the time. Obviously offer- ing group exercise classes is an extra cost to take on if there aren’t enough potential cus- tomers. This is where virtual classes come in. They can add value to a spa’s fitness offer- ing throughout the day – guests can do the classes they want, when they want, while operators optimise the use of the space. Surveys have suggested around two-thirds of new health club customers have been influenced take up a membership because virtual classes are available throughout the day. And there’s no reason why they wouldn’t be a draw for spa visitors too – whether regular customers or one-off visitors who want to maintain their health while travelling. “Utilising dead space by offering classes all


day will no doubt sell additional member- ships for us and add value without detracting


Other chains already trialling or running virtual classes include Anytime Fitness, Health City, Holmes Place and Virgin Active.


HOW DOES IT WORK? The set-up for a virtual class is very straight- forward: you need a screen, a projector and a computer connected to the internet that stores and runs your classes. The sound can run through existing audio systems. Current platform providers include Fitness On Request, Fitness On Demand, MyRide (cycling only), Virtual Instructor (from Cyber Coach) and Wexer Virtual. Most allow operators to either pre-schedule classes or let customers choose classes on-demand or offer a combination of the two. Installing a virtual class platform typically


Budget chain The Gym Group uses virtual classes because, like some spas, its model doesn’t allow for live classes


from the quantity or quality of our live class experience,” says David Patchell-Evans, CEO and founder of GoodLife Fitness in Canada, which will have virtual classes in 59 of its 300 sites by the end of the year. “We will ultimately add something like 25,000 virtual classes a week across all clubs, at a minimal cost,” he add.


86 Read Spa Business online spabusiness.com/digital


costs US$3,000-US$20,000 (€2,350-€15,600, £2,000-£13,000). There’s also a monthly licence fee that usually ranges from US$100– US$300 (€74-€221, £61-£181).


SUBSTITUTION OR ADDITION? Judging from user feedback, group exer- cise instructors should not feel threatened about being replaced by a virtual trainer. Fewer than 10 per cent of participants say they prefer video-based instruction to a live instructor, and most choose virtual classes simply because it allows them to participate in a class when no live options are available. Indeed, statistics show that the majority of those who participate in virtual classes also


Spa Business 1 2014 ©Cybertrek 2014


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