State of the UK Swimming Pool Market
The UK has 3,158 sites with a total 4,549 swimming pools and this year with 46 closures and only 34 openings the overall trend continues to reduce the number of pools in the country. Over the last 5 years the public sector has shown more stability than the private, 1.5% vs 5% drop in numbers. The public sector have also increased its prices over the past five years by 17% and in the last twelve months 3% which takes the average swim up from GB£4.11 to GB£4.24. The percentage of the population living within 2 miles of a pool remains unchanged from last year at 84%.
Historically mixing technology and water have caused a few issues for tech innovators but 2017 has seen some new ideas and products to encourage participation, here’s just a few we like.
When the most successful company in history, Apple, start to promote swimming, as one of the activities to do with the series 2 Watch, you know innovation has arrived.
Active in Time, (AiT) a London start-up who developed the swimming app SwimIO, live in Japan and free to download from the app store, took the opportunity to integrate the swim algorithm on the watch to the app. Your swimming activity can now be logged into Apple Health as a workout with details of the pool, lengths, time calories and more metrics coming soon. Neat for triathletes. SwimIO also became the first global swimming app and is live in 155 countries and has recorded over 3m swims covering 4 billion meters, that’s around the world 100 times.
Swimmers in the London office love Bragi, true wireless intelligent earphones, no wires, no boundaries and with clear stereo sound and hands free communication in the water, that’s clever.
Over 500 pools across the UK, Ireland and Canada are now using the AiT live pool timetable software, iFrames and APIs and with around 3m page views a month the public obviously find it a useful service. This service will be expanding to all English speaking countries in 2017, for details see http://info.activeintime.com/operator-software-explained
Aqua exercisers have discovered water Is 800X denser than air so it works your body harder whilst being low impact. Result, a toned body. Aqua Zumba is popular amongst all ages while aqua aerobics comes in many forms on the timetable. The French company Waterform are introducing aquatic boxing gloves, power boots, barbells along with aqua treadmills and aqua bikes. All very popular in Europe but new to the UK. Both organisations offer continuous training and programming for aqua instructors.
New services being launched in the UK from Google, Facebook, Amazon and Yell are all looking to add local search, linked to live timetables, plus transaction. These granular, on-demand searches, essential for today’s consumer, are due to explode in 2017/8. Is your pool ready and able to integrate with these new services and increase aqua participation?
Finally, GLL, who manage more pools across the UK than any other operator, published via Open Data Institute the largest physical activity dataset in May. This is not for the general public, or consultants but for techies to make something from it. The more live data that’s published, preferably via an API, the more techies will think about using it to create useful applications for the consumer. GLL, that’s one small step for data, one giant leap for techies.
GLL are guardians of the Olympic pool legacy, managing the two 50m pools at the London Aquatic Centre on the former Olympic Park in east London. In 2016 total centre usage passed 1 million for the first time and 871,390 people went swimming that’s an 8% increase year on year. GLL’s overall usage, including clubs, schools and events total almost 17 million, an 11.8% increase on 2015.
Swimming remains England’s most popular mass participation sport but data gathered by Sport England’s Active People Survey shows there has been a 24% decline in the number of people regularly participating. This compares to most operators, like GLL above, reporting increased usage. Perhaps new technology will help reconcile these differences.
- David Minton
Director, The Leisure Database Company
Correspondent for SSF in London.