Luca Valotta, how long have your gyms been closed?
«From 24 October. We reopened in summer, which is not the best time for fitness, especially the months from September to February are important for us. It is the second year that we are actually closed ».
The world of indoor physical activity is experiencing a very difficult season. Valotta, president and general manager of Virgin Active Europe – 37 clubs in Italy alone, over 160,000 members, a staff of 3,000 – has always been aware of the risks of the pandemic and of the opportunity for even difficult choices: “We must be cautious and conscientious, first of all it is necessary to take into account those who get sick and unfortunately at times risk their lives. We have always supported the government’s decisions to remedy this situation ».
«As an entrepreneur, I cannot fail to observe that the thing that weighed the most was navigating in uncertainty. We still don’t know when and how we will reopen. And there remains the regret of having been little consulted. We too contribute to the health of citizens, to the prevention of diseases ».
There is talk of reopening, if the data allow, after 5 March. There has been the green light for outdoor activities, now we also talk about the importance of physical activity in the gym for children and the elderly.
«The pillars of health are eating well, sleeping and exercising. The choice to allow outdoor sports was far-sighted and it is important that in the debate we start talking about the well-being of physical activity in the gym. I believe that it applies to all age groups ».
Drafts of the protocol for safe reopening have circulated. Do they convince you?
«It is the result of what we discussed last October with some trade associations. I believe it can meet the needs of the fitness industry. For our part, we must guarantee safety distances, avoid gatherings and contacts. On the other hand, in the gym the workouts are individual. What perplexes me is that at the moment we are not informed about what will happen ».
During the first lockdown, many discovered training at home, the importance of digital. Don’t you think that the need to return to face-to-face activity has now grown?
«I have always thought that digital could be an opportunity and as Virgin we were the first to believe it. I think the future is a hybrid model: digital contributes to the experience but does not replace presence or at least it does not do it entirely. There are moments in life that can push you to favor the distance training solution, but the presence inside the gyms remains a different, more complete experience, it brings people together, creates a community between customers and trainers “.
Don’t you think the digital euphoria has diminished a bit?
“What you define digital euphoria I see as a positive thing, it has allowed many to keep fit with trained trainers waiting for the centers to reopen.”
As for financial support, could more be done?
«As a category we are among those that have received less refreshments. Our sector would need to have more resources because it is also strategic for the sustainability of the health system. Like Fit.Comm (the Commercial Enterprises Fitness Association, ed) we made specific requests to the government, we hope that they can be taken into consideration, also in view of the definition of the recovery plan “.
In the new government there is a ministry for ecological transition. Do you also dream of a sport transition ministry in the future?
“I find the new ministry a big step forward. It is in the philosophy of Virgin and its founder Richard Branson to protect the environment and the importance of the theme of ecology. We would also need a government body that would increasingly value sport and fitness, which have a fundamental role in prevention and in the adoption of correct lifestyles. Sports activity is a natural medicine ».
February 16, 2021 (change February 16, 2021 | 09:56)
© REPRODUCTION RESERVED