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European Congress The 17th Annual IHRSA European Congress will take place in London from 23 to 26 October 2017. IHRSA’s Kristen Walsh takes a look at what we can expect from this huge event


ore than 500 attendees are expected at London’s Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel for the 17th Annual IHRSA European Congress. The crowd will consist of club owners and operators, fitness professionals, developers, investors, media, industry suppliers and others. “The Congress is coming back to London after 13 years,” says Florian Cartoux, IHRSA’s Europe Director. “London boasts some of the most exciting and diverse clubs in the country, and, in terms of revenue, the UK continues to be the biggest fitness industry in Europe. This Congress provides an opportunity to return to the heart of fitness in Europe.” Jay Ablondi, the association’s executive vice president of global products, reports that participants will be coming from some 30 countries. “While the vast majority of attendees are European, there will also be groups from the US, Latin America and the Middle East. We’ve even heard from IHRSA members in South Africa who plan to be in London.” What was originally a regional event is, it seems, morphing into a global one. The list of presenters alone attests to that fact, with speakers from the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Belgium and Russia.


This year’s event, themed ‘Technology & Fitness: Staying Ahead in an Evolving Industry’, will include world-class keynote speakers, informative educational sessions, numerous networking opportunities and access to some of the industry’s leading suppliers. “Technology is transforming the fitness industry globally, and it introduces risks and rewards both for club operators and their members,” points out Cartoux. “The Congress will allow attendees to hear some of the finest European futurists describe how technology is changing our businesses, and obliging us to adapt our club strategies.” Derek Gallup, the chairperson of IHRSA’s board of directors, and the senior vice president of fitness and retail for New Evolution Ventures (NeV), will extend a ‘Welcome to London!’ during the Congress’ opening session, which features a keynote and award presentation. “I’m thrilled to be attending my first Congress,” he says. “I’m looking forward to meeting European club leaders, learning from inspiring and thought-provoking speakers and visiting London clubs.” The opening keynote address, ‘Pioneering an Adaptive Digital Strategy’, embraces the Congress’ defining theme. Presenter Ben Hammersley, a futurist and internet technologist, is the author of 64

Technology is transforming the fitness industry, introducing risks and rewards for both operators and members Florain Caroux - Europe Director IHRSA 88 August 2017 ©Cybertrek 2017

Things You Need to Know Now for Then, an editor-at-large for WIRED magazine, and, interestingly, the person who coined the term ‘podcast’. He’ll discuss the political, cultural, social and corporate implications of the Internet of Things (IoT), and explain how clubs can create a successful, long-term digital strategy.


More than 25 industry suppliers, including leading providers of equipment, programmes and services, will comprise the event’s Supplier Showcase. Among the many people sizing up the Showcase will be Gallup. “I’m looking forward to hearing about, and experiencing, what’s happening in fitness in Europe, and sharing ideas with key influencers,” he says. For many attendees, the Congress, while primarily about education and peer engagement, is also about doing some business. Tuesday’s sessions address this with presentations on ‘changes in trends and expectations for the future'; ‘the future of the discount market: saturation or growth?’; ‘customer relationships: the importance of fairness, emotion and connection’; and ‘commercial innovation and marketing: impacts of digital on business processes’.


Christophe Andanson, president of the French Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (FHRSA), will tackle the topic of ‘trends and insights: the future of fitness’. Jamil Qureshi, founder of JQED Ltd., a Londonbased change consultancy, and one of the world’s foremost authorities on performance enhancing psychology, will dissect the attributes of ‘the disruptive leader’. “The biggest change this year is a greater investment in high-level speakers,” says Marc