By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE looming increase in electricity bills will likely force some gym operators still recovering from COVID-19’s impact to consider raising membership fees or making other adjustments to help sustain operations, according to fitness stakeholders.
In an interview with The Tribune yesterday, Dr Kent Bazard, spokesperson for the Bahamas Gym Owners and Personal Trainers Association (BGOPTA), suggested that business will not be as usual for many proprietors once the new policy takes effect.
He was referring to Prime Minister Phillip “Brave” Davis’ announcement of upcoming increases in Bahamas Power and Light electricity bills.
Customers with a current monthly bill of $182 or less would see an increase to about $20 per month or two cents per kilowatt hour of electricity used.
While those with higher bills will pay almost double that amount at 4.3 cents per kilowatt hour.
“With this price increase, it’s really going to increase our cost of operation and we’re going to have to make adjustments and every other gym owner will have to decide what kind of adjustment that will be but we’re going to have to obviously make an adjustment,” the Empire Fitness owner said.
Dr Bazard also expressed concern about the timing of the increase given that the industry, which was among the hardest hit businesses during the pandemic, has still not fully recovered.
Added to these concerns is the high likelihood of the country’s national minimum wage being increased.
As a result, the gym operator said difficult decisions may have to be made in the days ahead.
“I can’t speak for every owner because we’re not going to make the same decision but some may be able to absorb the cost, but I can surely see how some may have to increase fees so there’s quite a likelihood that many of the gym owners will consider increasing fees and this is something we avoided even after opening up after COVID, some of them being in six figure debt,” he added.
“We still didn’t have to raise prices and some of us continued to pay our employees over the lockdown period. We still paid National Insurance so it’s unclear on the real reason why BPL is increasing the fees, but it’s definitely most likely that some owners will have to look at increasing their fees.”
Charles Johnson, proprietor of Out Da Box Fitness, shared similar sentiments when contacted by this newspaper yesterday, saying the hike in electricity bills will no doubt affect the industry.
“It’s an operational cost so businesses, in all honestly, businesses will not absorb that cost and they will pass it on to the consumer because everyone is in the business to make a profit,” Mr Johnson said.
In terms of the way forward, Dr Bazard said operators would be open to having discussions with government officials to help minimise the impact of rising prices.
He said potential relief packages that would help operators could include some sort of tax exemptions or debt forgiveness.
“There are some owners who had to take a loan from the government so if there could be some level of forgiveness with those I think that would assist as well because that’s again another monthly expense so it was a guarantee loan I think it was that we took from the government during the lockdown,” the operator also said.
Gym membership fees can range between $80 to $100 or more per month in The Bahamas.
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