How to Keep Aquatics Facilities Profitable in Difficult Times

Create additional programs and reach out to new user groups.

A turbulent economy significantly impacts municipal and private aquatics centers, leaving many facility operators with a feeling of uncertainty. But by positioning their facilities as inexpensive recreational alternatives and local social hubs, they can put a positive spin on the situation. The first step: Establish a clear identity - one that will help users better appreciate the benefits of recreational aquatics and make them want to participate in programs and activities. Here are four other ideas:

Conduct an internal self-assessment to help control costs. Take a hard look at everything from pool staff and product selection to maintenance efforts and energy conservation strategies. Then determine how and where significant dollars can be saved.

Increase the number of new visitors. Target people who previously frequented commercial water parks. Many families can no longer afford overnight or even day trips to such facilities, but they might be interested in what facilities closer to home can offer on a consistent basis. In order to gain that share of the market, facility operators must educate potential users about their programs. Many people often are unaware of the opportunities available in their own communities.

Increase the value of each sale. In order to boost attendance, you must first boost demand. To do that, identify target markets and then review programming schedules to ensure that you've included something for those markets. Offer multigenerational programs at appropriate times of the day. Adult exercise classes and learn-to-swim lessons generate the most revenue, but one of the most profitable types of programs is aquatics personal training, as doctors are increasingly recommending low-impact water therapy for their overweight, arthritic and injured patients. If necessary, consider partnering with area hospitals, clinics and senior centers, or bringing in a corporate sponsor - a local physical therapy clinic, for example, to help provide instructors.

Make season passes and long-term memberships more appealing. Studies show that it is less expensive to bring back existing customers than it is to attract new ones. When sales of season passes and memberships increase, so do across-the-board profits. The more a person visits your facility, the more opportunities you have to promote additional classes and sell concessions and other retail items.

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