By Mo Chaudry, Chairman – Waterworld Leisure Group
Well, I don’t think many of us are sad to have seen the back of 2020, are we?
It should have been a year of milestones and celebrations for Waterworld Leisure Resort and the international expansion of Pulse Global Group – but instead, it will be remembered as a time of disruption, upheaval and frustration for us all.
There have still been some major highs and impressive achievements for our team over the past 12 months, and we can look back with pride on what has been achieved . . . in many cases against the odds.
The completion of the multi million-pound new development for example – the delayed opening of a new 70,000 sq ft M Club, the largest gym of its kind in Staffordshire, and brand new 36-hole Adventure Mini Golf centre, have earned great plaudits.
But the year was also tinged with regrets about ‘what might have been’, had the coronavirus not struck and forced the recently expanded Waterworld, our indoor water park, to remain closed for so many months. We should have seen turnover rise by more than a third during 2020 with all the new investments made across the Group, but instead the year ended up being pretty much a financial write-off.
But there is hope. Even though our water park was only able to open for a few weeks during the peak summer season, under social distancing guidelines with reduced capacity, we saw enough in that time to show us that the interest and demand is still there. The customer feedback was amazing.
If you have a good brand, and a good product, I believe people will still come. The challenge for us now is to make sure that we are firing on all cylinders the moment that these good times return, which hopefully may not be too far away now that vaccines are in circulation.
And it can’t come soon enough, can it? Lockdowns, or some form of restrictions on our way of life, have been in place now for the best part of a whole year, and it has taken its toll on many people’s mental and physical health.
People need something to do, to take their mind off the current situation, and closing all fitness facilities can affect us pretty badly.
It’s an established fact that the healthier and fitter you are, the more easily your body can cope with the physiological stresses the cold climate places on your body. And we all need to be doing everything we can right now to take the strain off our NHS, however we can.
So much has changed over the past year in terms of our way of life, and our outlook on what’s really important.
But I feel that 2021 is still going to offer many exciting opportunities for those of us who are prepared to embrace the changes, and challenges.
People are going to be even more careful about how they spend their hard-earned cash in the coming months, that’s for sure, so business success will revolve around two key factors. First, ensuring that you are giving customers the best possible product and customer service. And second, making sure that what you are offering is relevant to their modern-day needs.
Then of course there’s Brexit – and at least we managed to get a trade deal over the line, in the nick of time.
Without it, the situation would have been disastrous for all concerned. The most conservative estimate was that a no deal would have seen 10% of our GDP lost.
Now, we are starting to see what the new road map looks like. Entrepreneurs and business people are adaptable, and will take on new challenges, and move forward. The people who will suffer the most are those who are perhaps not so adaptable.
I’ve always been an advocate for entrepreneurial spirit and seeking out new opportunities internationally. A couple of years ago, when I returned to the place of my birth, Pakistan, I saw a world of opportunities.
It’s all there to be grabbed across different sectors, and offers a great opportunity for the Pulse brand, for instance, to explore such amazing ‘health and fitness’ opportunities. It is the same story across all of the developing world.
So, we must not convince ourselves that every door is closed to us. There are always going to be new opportunities around the corner and around the world, especially so after a period of turmoil.
And here in the UK, with all the pent-up frustration waiting to burst out, I actually believe that 2021 could eventually turn out to be a boom for the leisure and hospitality industries. Let’s hope so, and soon!
We have a saying at M Club: ‘Do something today that your future self will thank you for.’ Right now, that seems to be an important message on so many different levels.