The operator of a north-east sports centre has called on the Scottish Government to outline how coronavirus measures are to be eased, warning that current restrictions are unsustainable.
Kevin Bonarius, Garioch Sports Centre chief operating officer, warned his industry would struggle to recover from the pandemic unless more information was forthcoming.
Mr Bonarius made his plea when he appeared in front of the Scottish Parliament’s Health Committee to highlight the impact of the virus on clubs and recreational facilities.
Before the pandemic, Mr Bonarius said his Inverurie centre was serving 7,500 visitors per week, a figure that had fallen by 50% during the outbreak.
The centre had been innovative by holding online fitness classes and hanging on to members that way, he said.
But Mr Bonarius said: “The difficult part for us is, how do we start to service that 7,500 visitors again coming out of this. It is going to be incredibly difficult given the current restrictions.
“There needs to be some understanding as to how those are going to ease to allow us to get back to where we were pre-Covid. With the current position we are in, at this moment in time, it wouldn’t be sustainable in six to 12 months’ time.”
Mr Bonarius agreed that the measures had kept people safe and he understood the necessity for them to be introduced.
However, he did seek a more convincing explanation for the current restrictions on outdoor sports.
“We understand that these restrictions have to be in place,” Mr Bonarius said. “But we would like to have a better understanding of a lot of the restrictions. What was the decision making behind these? Outdoor activity being one.”
‘Restrictions are the issue’
Maintaining membership numbers was a concern which was discussed at weekly board meetings.
“We know we are probably going to struggle to increase our membership under current restrictions,” Mr Bonarius said. “We know we are going to lose the vast majority of what are loyal members with us. But we know also we are going to have to do our very best to get new ones through the door. For us it is the restrictions which are the issue.”
Mr Bonarius added: “While we are on reduced service offering and reduced memberships, we are carrying all the same costs in regards to wages and classes. That’s the concern for us moving forward. Without restrictions starting to ease or light at the end of the tunnel, we are really going to struggle to get back to where we were pre-Covid.”
Mr Bonarius argued it was vital that the sports and leisure industry was able to flourish when the pandemic loosens its grip, because encouraging people to exercise was crucial to bouncing back from the virus.
“Our industry is going to be at the forefront of the recovery from this pandemic – the mental wellbeing, reducing the isolation, the health and physical benefits of being involved in our industry,” he said. “So it is how we come out of these restrictions and how it is going to work that I feel we need to focus on.”