The very first edition of a major global gathering in the climbing gym industry will be taking place this summer in Sofia, Bulgaria. The World Indoor Climbing Summit (WICS) is exclusively organized by Walltopia, and will be the first international conference and exhibition entirely focused on the business aspect of indoor climbing. Gym owners and industry professionals from over 15 different countries, including USA, Canada, UK, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, France, Italy, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, BeNeLux, Sweden, UAE, will get together to share experience and ideas, discuss hot topics and talk about the future of indoor climbing.
Indoor climbing has evolved from a training activity for experienced climbers into a workout for a wide range of age and ability groups. For a mere 20 years climbing gyms have transformed from dusty dark shacks into spacious light facilities that also accommodate fitness areas, yoga studios, specialized kid zones, cafes, and retail areas. They serve a wider audience and attract more and more participants every year. Research shows that each year more than 1 million people climb for the first time, on a global scale*. The climbing industry has seen a steady growth of an average 10% for the US and Canada in the past 7 years alone, and that trend is expected to remain similar in 2018. The number of climbing gyms worldwide has increased by 50% since 2007.
“At Walltopia, we’re witnessing a steady average growth of 45% in the number of projects we sign every year since 2012 with the impressive number of 53% more sqft climbing surface produced and built only for the last year,” says Ivaylo Krastev, COO at Walltopia.
With such an incredible growth of the industry, it’s about the right time to start thinking global – to hear different opinions from different countries around the world, to exchange experience, face challenges and talk about the future of indoor climbing together. That is why the WICS conference program is planned to start with an open discussion about The Future of Indoor Climbing in which everyone will be welcome to join the talk and express their vision.
MARKET DIVERSITY & POTENTIAL
It’s a well-known fact that the most developed markets are North America and Western Europe – with the most saturated parts of them being the places that have traditions in alpinism and rock climbing. However, in recent years indoor climbing has been gaining popularity in places that have zero outdoor climbing features within a radius of hundreds of miles. Many young winning competitors now originate from places that don’t have an outdoor climbing scene. Areas like Illinois and Texas are opening facilities of 25 000 sqft. “Over 50% of our clients have never been outdoor climbing on a real rock and they have no interest in that,” shares Jeffery Bowling, Business Development Manager at Touchstone Climbing, who corners the market in California, operating 12 climbing facilities throughout the state. The potential of a given market does not relate to the presence of natural climbing features anymore but rather – on demographics. As long as there are active people who want to exercise in the area, then indoor climbing is a prospective business there. At WICS visitors will have the opportunity to learn the stories of climbing gyms operating in a great variety of different markets when it comes to climbing traditions, market maturity and target group diversity.
The idea behind WICS emerged last summer during a small client gathering at Walltopia HQ with climbing gym experts from the US, UK, UAE and France with various backgrounds. The occasion triggered interesting and inspirational discussions about current problems, trends and business models in indoor climbing, as well as the direction in which the industry is headed, and what is to be expected in the coming years. After deeming the event a success and receiving great feedback from the gym owners who attended, the Walltopia team decided that it was time for the indoor climbing industry to have a bigger event on a global scale. We decided to bring professionals from different continents together to exchange ideas, experience and vision on the present and future of indoor climbing.
“With the other main branch of Walltopia – active entertainment attractions targeting the amusement industry – we attend over 20 different summits and conferences and most of them are on a global scale. When it comes to climbing, there are only 3 events every year and all of them are focused on a local market. For us, being an international company that works with gym operators worldwide and aims to understand their needs and deliver the right product, it was natural to initiate the first global gathering of the industry.”, says Alexandra Hristova, Head of Marketing at Walltopia.
WICS will consist of two main parts – conference programme and exhibition area. The conference will have a series of panels featuring climbing gym owners and professionals from around the globe who will share their views and ideas on the hottest topics concerning our community, in the form of open discussion rather than a one-man presentation. Get ready to hear and ask questions about everything from getting loans to the latest trends in climbing gym design. The conference’s entire schedule and list of confirmed speakers can be found on the event’s official website.
Aside from the conference, WICS will host a small exhibition area where manufacturers and suppliers from the industry can showcase their latest products, and meet potential clients and partners. Attendees will also have the opportunity to host a presentation after applying online and receiving an approval for the topic. The event will have separate time slots for both the panel discussions and the exhibition every day, giving all exhibitors the opportunity to attend the conference, and preventing the panels from “stealing” any attention from the exhibit hall.
Gym owners and industry experts from countries like USA, Australia, UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Slovenia, UAE, Malaysia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Belgium and more have already secured their spot in the conference.
THE CHERRY ON TOP
Climbing at Walltopia Climbing & Fitness will be free for all attendees throughout the event. Besides that, after three days of business talk, the WICS team will loosen things up by hosting the rooftop party of the year at Walltopia HQ, close by the event center that will accommodate the conference. All visitors are invited to grab a drink, enjoy the sunset and then dance the night away! WICS will take place on June 7th till 9th in Sofia, Bulgaria.
For more info and full agenda, visit the event website at https://climbingsummit.com/
*Data based on waivers signed on the initial visit.
Communications specialist and poverty economist, Joe has been contributing his expertise to the global climbing industry for nearly a decade and currently manages CBJ advertising and social media. He traveled around the world as the IFSC’s community manager during Olympic inclusion as well as across the US while writing for Alpinist, Climberism, DPM and CBJ. He worked in local climbing gyms of the Pacific Northwest and West Michigan and advanced economic empowerment, educational equity, youth development and diversity programs alongside national non-profit organizations.