What do meditation apps, online fitness and the wet leisure industry all have in common?


The Wet Leisure Industry Survey Report came out last month and it shows the massive affect that COVID has had on our industry. It made 2020 a year like no other. In fact, for some wet leisure businesses, it made it the best year they have ever had.The pandemic has had such awful consequences that it’s difficult to throw any sort of positive light on it whatsoever and yet, as the old saw goes, ‘It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.’

COVID has changed how we work and live in countless ways. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that some of those changes have had a positive effect and yet it feels slightly uncomfortable to look at business growth that is the direct result of that nasty little virus.

The fact of the matter is that some industries and businesses were offering something that the pandemic made more valuable and if there was ever a year that showed the real value of just what our industry offers its customers, it was 2020.

Breathe in and… breathe out.

A few years ago, if you had told people that you had an app on your phone that was designed to help you sleep, to help you relax and feel calm, you might have received a few funny looks. Today, you might be the odd one out if you haven’t.

Founded in 2012 in San Francisco, Calm.com was originally marketed as a tool for hyperactive Silicon Valley developers; about as far from being a mainstream product as you can imagine.

Seven years later, when people went looking for something to help with the stress and anxiety caused by COVID, they found the app offering exactly what they were looking for. All of a sudden, this niche product had an appeal for an awful lot of people. 40 million downloads worldwide and one new user joining every second.

The boom in spas and hot tubs in 2020 didn’t have quite those numbers behind it but soaking in a hot tub is a great way of getting rid of stress and spa bathing prepares you for a good night’s sleep. Like the meditation apps, the wet leisure industry was already offering what people needed.

Its time has come.

‘How many of the following products did you install?’ is one of the questions the Wet Leisure Survey asks. The numbers only refer to the businesses that responded to the survey but they do give an idea of what is going on in the market.

Over the 10 years of the survey, above ground pools had bumped along but 2020 was different. The survey recorded a huge jump in sales, which concurred with a BSPF members report suggesting there had been a 400 to 500% increase during the year.

Great weather, furloughed workers and the family stuck at home made the above ground pool a perfect and popular choice. As one respondent said, “With more people at home the pool became very important – mostly to keep the kids out of the house.”

By the same token, 2020 saw online fitness move from niche to normal. Whether it was a Joe Wicks PE class or a Peloton bike and its live-streamed motivational support, if you were denied the gym this was the next best thing. Peloton in the UK grew by almost 250% over the year and one of Joe’s classes had over 950,000 viewers.

The online fitness business is expecting its popularity to outlast the pandemic and our industry is already seeing signs that above ground pool sales have given people the ‘pool bug’ and will lead them to upgrade their installation, which was how the sales pipeline to in ground pool ownership used to work.

Talking of the old days.

This is now our third lockdown and it’s beginning to remind me of something I have strong, but not necessarily good, childhood memories of. It’s beginning to feel like one of those seemingly endless car journeys I used to be taken on as a child. I’m sure you know the kind I mean.

Well, lockdown is starting to remind me of those.

This has been a long journey and I don’t think anyone can honestly say the end is in sight. We’ve stopped playing I-spy and run out of travel sweets. Let’s just hope none of us get carsick.

And I ask the same question every day.

Are we nearly there yet?