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Virtual fitness will be the way of the future, says owner of Chinese studio network

Virtual fitness the way of the future for studio owners

Amidst all the bad news about the pandemic, there are reasons for boutique studio owners to be hopeful— they might just have the upper hand over big-box gyms.

According to research conducted by MindBody, 78% of consumers say they prefer in-person fitness options and 58% say they are more comfortable with the idea of visiting a boutique studio versus a multiplex gym.

Randolph Xiao, CEO of Xiamen Hawana Cultural Communications (Moksa Yoga), a Merrithew® Host Training Center, has started to see that come to fruition. When Moksa Yoga’s 14 yoga and Pilates studios reopened on April 13 after being closed for about two months, only 50% of clients returned. Now that the situation has stabilized in China, the number of customers has gradually increased, reaching about 85-90% of pre-pandemic numbers.

“We have not adjusted the price or reduced the number of classes available. Everything is not much different from last year, only the online classes have increased. In order to eliminate the fear among our members, we have launched online classes, special events and courses,” he says.

Building up their virtual offering was already a key strategic direction and industry trend before the pandemic, but now it’s “forcing us to accelerate the pace of progress … the virtual fitness business is continuing to move forward,” he says.

“The biggest challenge during this period has been the uncertainty, especially the fact that the pre-organized instructor training education courses we had scheduled to be taught by international instructors couldn’t go ahead,” he says.

“What we’ve done is accelerate the development of our online business model to find new opportunities. The pause in in-person business had a huge financial impact, especially to our cash flow, but the online business revenue opens the door to a new world,” he says.

Implementing strict new measures at the studio

With about five to eight group classes and 10 to 20 private sessions per day at each studio, Moksa has implemented strict sanitization processes and health checks for staff and clients.

Cleaning measures:

Cleaning a Pilates Mat

  • The studio is fully ventilated, cleaned and disinfected. Evening staff ensure that all areas, including classrooms, are ventilated for at least 30 minutes
  • The studios use disinfectant products that meet public health requirements
  • All equipment, instruments and accessories are disinfected

Staff and client arrangements:

Checking temperature of a client

  • Once the studios were allowed to reopen, any instructors who had been traveling for Chinese New Year had to quarantine for at least 14 days before returning to work
  • Everyone must wear a mask
  • Employees must measure and record their body temperature every day
  • Members need to show their government health QR code on their mobile phones to enter the studio


Cartoon and picture tips help explain Moksa’s new studio protocols to clients. It also used a WeChat account to communicate the changes to clients.

Student using hand sanitizer

Biggest learning? Online classes are the way of the future

“Those who do not plan for the future will find trouble at their doorstep,” Randolph says. “We need to study and improve our processes based on what we’ve learned during this time. We need to grasp business development trends and manage risks, such as by combining online and offline classes and training. The era of online fitness classes and education has arrived. We need to learn how to realize a more cost-effective, convenient, transparent and practical business model through it.”

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