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FOCUS GOING DUTCH Kate Cracknell reports on the health and fitness market in the Netherlands F

or those who work in the health and fitness sector in the UK, the Dutch market offers no great culture

shock. There are a number of striking similarities between the two markets, from consolidation of the larger chains and an emergence of the budget club, to a move towards preventative wellness and growing governmental interest in the potential of the sector. Not only that but, although the market in the Netherlands is smaller

– just short of 2,000 fi tness centres across the country at the end of March 2010, according to the Dutch chamber of commerce – the offering at the clubs themselves is also familiar. There are the full-service, family- focused chains that offer something for everyone within a buzzing

environment. Other top-end clubs lead on design, offering an aspirational environment for a more adult-centric audience. Public facilities and a growing budget sector snap at the heels of the chains with increasingly high quality offerings. And an innovative independent sector delivers a highly personalised offering that focuses on service as a key differentiator. I visited the Netherlands a few

months ago and my host Jan de Jong, CEO of Vital Balance Group, explained:

“There are a few key issues in the Dutch market as a whole, including high attrition rates, a scarcity of qualifi ed personnel with the right attitude towards customers, and too little attention paid to clear brand positioning.” So far, still, so familiar.

focus on wellbeing De Jong continues: “Supply outweighs demand as far as number of clubs are concerned, with consequent high levels of competition based on price. However, fitness remains popular [according to IHRSA, around 16 per cent of the population are members of a fitness centre] and there are opportunities going forward. We’re starting to see some specialisation in the sector, for

Azzurro’s group exercise studios are all fully soundproofed, meaning their location next to the spa is not a problem

64 Read Health Club Management online at

example, such as a growing number of ladies-only centres. I also think there’s more opportunity for fitness at work, as well as co-operation with hotels, schools and physiotherapy centres. “There’s increased interest among

older population groups too, who are starting to see the value in preventative healthcare. While the budget clubs focus mainly on offering fi tness activities, the multi-purpose fi tness centres are therefore starting to incorporate wellness components into their offering.” And this is an area in which, at least

based on the clubs I visited during my trip, the Netherlands is arguably more advanced than the UK. Azzurro, in the seaside town of

Noordwijk aan Zee, is a very high-spec independent club and spa that’s been inspired, says owner Marcel Zijlstra, by the UK’s Amida clubs. Jerusalem stone walls and pillars, slate fl oors and oak ceilings meet you as you walk into the large, beautiful reception area. Lines of sight are well thought-out, making everything seem connected but without making anyone feel exposed: there are partial views to the very funky, dimly-lit hydrotherapy pool from reception, for example (photo above), as well as to the fi rst-fl oor gym. The gym – equipped by Technogym,

WaterRower and Power Plate – is a wonderfully attractive space, with all wires hidden beneath the floor and equipment laid out in low-profile pods.

october 2010 © cybertrek 2010

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