The Climbing Wall Association (CWA), which has been conducting monthly surveys of climbing facility operators to provide a snapshot into COVID-19 impacts on the indoor climbing industry in North America, recently published the results of its December survey. Conducted from January 11 to 15, the survey provides a window into the finances and operations of climbing gyms during this period. Climbing Business Journal reported in August on encouraging signs for the industry in that month’s survey, and those positive indicators have largely continued nearly one year since the first wave of closures.
Perhaps most remarkably, over 75 percent of gyms responding to the survey question have retained at least 50 percent of their total membership at year’s end. Despite the most recent wave of temporary gym closures and capacity restrictions, the majority of these gyms’ climbers have continued supporting their gyms and staff during the pandemic.
Multiple climbing facility operators taking the survey noted the importance of communication in keeping that support going and improving consumer confidence. While more gyms in December than in November cited capacity restrictions as a bigger limitation to increasing revenue, about 37 percent of respondents to the December survey still identified consumer confidence as the major factor.
“Be prepared to adapt to and communicate fast-changing policies to members and the rationale behind each, as transparency and understanding leads to a more empathetic and supportive member base,” commented one survey respondent.
In continuing their memberships, the ongoing support of climbers to their local gyms has enabled these gyms to continue providing jobs to staff. About 64 percent of gyms responding to the survey question are currently employing at least 80 percent of their normal full-time staff, and about 38 percent of the gyms are employing at least 80 percent of part-time staff. These numbers show an increase from the November survey, when 53 percent and 27 percent of responding gyms were employing at least 80 percent of full-time and part-time staff, respectively.
Finally, the efforts of open climbing gyms to keep their facilities as safe as possible has kept positive COVID-19 cases within their doors from surging. Roughly 86 percent of responding gyms had one positive case or less reported by staff in December, just a slight decrease from 90 percent in November. The consistency was seen across customer reported cases as well. About 83 percent of responding gyms had two or less positive cases reported by customers last month, down from 86 percent in November.
As vaccines start rolling out, climbing gyms still face numerous challenges to surviving and thriving beyond this period. 56 percent of gyms responding to the survey question now expect it to take one to two years for membership and revenue to recover. Challenges commented on by respondents include uncertainty around receiving more financial aid, operating within capacity requirements, and raising consumer confidence further.
Stay tuned to CBJ for more updates on the indoor climbing industry in 2021, as new data become available.
Climbing Business Journal is an independent news outlet dedicated to covering the indoor climbing industry. Here you will find the latest coverage of climbing industry news, gym developments, industry best practices, risk management, climbing competitions, youth coaching and routesetting. Have an article idea? CBJ loves to hear from readers like you!