The role of Leisure & Wellness in this 'new normal' (and its benefits for venues)

The key link between leisure and well-being during COVID-19:

It’s safe to say that this year has been anything but typical. To different extents, but we’ve all had to deal with the impacts of COVID-19 in multiple areas of our lives. In fact, I am sure that no matter what location, career, life-stage, or social situation you’re currently in, you are still experiencing the effects of this pandemic. 

Within our economies and societal behaviors, one of the areas that COVID-19 has heavily impacted has been leisure

Leisure has often been defined as a quality of experience or free time. Free time being the time we spend away from business, work, job-hunting, domestic chores, or education (in the strict sense of the word). 

At the very beginning of this pandemic’s most critical point, outdoor leisure as we knew it, was basically, well…dead. 

Just to name a few examples of what lock-down and regulations such as “no in-person gatherings of more than 10 people” did to us… 

  • Bye-bye to all the summer music festivals we had been longing for.
  • No more possibility to go to the gym or practice team sports.
  • Meeting your friends at a bar or restaurant? Don’t even think about it.
  • Attending cultural events or activities? Also a no-go, too big of a risk.
  • Relaxing in a sauna or thermal bath? Consider your bathroom your go-to place.

Naturally, this hit leisure and wellness hard. 

A survey conducted by We Travell found that in regards to revenue impact for 2020, 41% of respondents anticipate a decline of 50% or more when compared to 2019, including 19% that predict a decline of more than 75%.

However, we’ve also been quick to find ourselves alternatives by shifting many of these events to the online world through live streamings, zoom calls, virtual and interactive online experiences, or physical social distancing measures that have at least enabled us to enjoy a drink or two at a terrace this summer.

In conclusion, it’s been made obvious that leisure is a vital part of life for us humans, and that not even a world-wide pandemic can make us give up on it. 

And although for some people leisure might not be their biggest concern at the moment, these past months’ evidence has pointed out that our leisure lives are closely linked to our mental health and subjective well-being in many ways


Among other things, leisure helps reduce stress, cope with pressure, and boost our happiness. But only when we’ve been forced to isolate at home and our usual leisure activities (e.g: exercise, socialisation…) have been taken away from us have we realised the impact it has on our overall well-being. 


“Leisure” is more than the free time and activity itself. It’s mostly how we feel during that specific time. Therefore, now that leisure venues have had to adapt and reinvent their experiences in order to slowly open-up again, it’s also important to take into account how this might have affected the way people feel while experiencing them.  


Because if one thing is certain is that guests’ expectations have changed for good


Even in places where life is starting to return to “normal”, there’s still a chance that the virus could spread and restrictions could be reinforced. So we’ve all been compelled to incorporate new practices and habits into our everyday lives, such as: 

  • Strict personal hygiene
  • Normalised use of face-masks
  • Social distancing
  • Following guidelines for the use of shared spaces and facilities
  • Remaining flexible to respond to future changes 

...with leisure and attraction venues being no exception. 


Once again, leisure can be enjoyable, stimulating, relaxing, and fulfilling, and it plays a specially vital role in nurturing those needs in this challenging period for all, but it will only be able to benefit our well-being if the above practices are incorporated and ensured.  


And since we’re talking about well-being… 

Where does the world of Wellness stand among all this chaos?

COVID-19 has also drastically changed the Wellness industry too and will continue to experience a major transformation in the months to come. Experts say that health has stood out as a key focus point for consumers readjusting to their ‘new normal’ and that their approach to fitness and overall wellness might have been altered permanently.

With the surge of COVID-19, we’ve all reconsidered our habits and granted more importance to preventive health and wellness practices that help our immune systems be ready to rumble if the occasion arises. 

So the fact that this booming $4.5 trillion industry is seeing a strong rise in telemedicine, at-home fitness programs, and digital therapies comes as no surprise. 

The bottom line is that we are seeing a democratisation of more wellness services, through digitalisation and affordable models. 


As a result of this pandemic, “well-care” is becoming more accessible to all, and that, moving forward, there will be upcoming opportunities around telehealth, and putting people in increased control of their own well-being”. - Jemma Shin, consumer strategist within WGSN.


Of course, you might also be thinking: “Well, that still doesn’t solve the billions that have been lost within the industry in 2020 for those brick and mortar businesses”. And you’re right, we know. The hit has been particularly hard for family-owned businesses and SMB’s. 

However, the point we are trying to make is that we should all see this COVID-19 journey as a marathon rather than a short-term race. Thinking long term and seeing the bigger picture, you might agree with us that the post-pandemic wellness markets look buoyant and resilient. 


It all resides in adaptability, reinventing your business to meet new challenges and needs. And for those leisure and wellness venues who have been able to do so quickly, this new role that COVID-19 has put them in, has brought far more benefits than drawbacks.  

Not convinced? Read the list below and consider if you see the glass half empty or half full.

Disruption as an opportunity for Leisure and Wellness venues: 

1. A much higher volume of direct sales. Which leads to not only win-back revenue to make up for lost months but also:

2. Less fees to pay to channel partners and a decrease in third party dependencies.

3. That has allowed venues not to rely so much on giving out discounts and throw prices. Which has resulted in the adoption of technologies such as Dynamic Pricing to automatically regulate the prices based on data and consequently also achieve:

4.  A higher average ticket price

5. A strengthening of business-consumer relationships. The customers are building more relationships directly with the brands instead of the channel partners. 


6. Higher predictability and less surprises thanks to more data collection and insights. When resellers sell venue tickets other than "ok, they sold 1000 tickets", the venue itself knows very little. By selling tickets directly through their own websites they have more information about party size, ages, average spend, when people like to buy, how long in advance, what day and time they plan to come etc.


7.  There's been more revenue coming from cross-sell products through owned channels (things like parking tickets, bath robes, towels, food menus, and beverage, or even 'bring your dog' tickets can be offered and incentvized for purchase even before the visit). 


8.  An overall smoother in-venue experience for the guests, who don't have to put up with such big queues and crowds like they used to pre-COVID. People come more prepared and in those parks where an effective Crowd Control System has been implemented, they can enjoy an even better experience than before (yes, really, if you're not convinced just listen to this podcast episode from Ride-Review and judge for yourself!).


9.  With practices to spread out the visitors not only in the venue itself, but also through the week and different time-slots, guests have experienced less bottle-necks in rides and box-office entrances, a safer visit, and overall more time to have fun rather than waiting among the crowds. 

10. Better forecast and higher predictability. More dated tickets have been sold (instead of flexible or undated tickets) which has resulted in less surprises for venue staff and operators. 


11. Want it or not, all of us have had a crash course on eCommerce! Online purchase behaviours that would have normally taken consumers at least 5 years to adopt have now become common practice. As a result, digital operations and online shopping have allowed better planning, fewer costs, more insights, better understanding of the consumer, and a fine-tuning of the business’ services.


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So, have we succeeded in painting a more optimistic view of the post-COVID wellness and leisure landscape?

It is unarguable that there’s still a long way to go and many challenges ahead of us, but the key resides in keeping your guests in the spotlight, and learning from their behaviour in order to serve them better, by untapping all the potential that digital and online have to offer right now. 


As an operator within leisure and wellness, how positively or negatively has COVID affected your venue? 

Let us know in the comments below, and if there is anything we can support you with, don’t hesitate to contact our team of experts!