21 August 2019
How many gymnasiums do you see in the city's major shopping malls? Photo: Bloomberg
How many gymnasiums do you see in the city's major shopping malls? Photo: Bloomberg

Hard-working developers need to work out more

Casino king Stanley Ho Hung-sun is probably right. He once kidded that many Hong Kong property developers are so jelly-belly they can’t even put on their socks. 

Physical fitness may be the furthest thing from their minds. Look around, how many gymnasiums do you see in the city’s major shopping malls?

The question was raised by Fitness First Hong Kong general manager Mok Wei, who thinks the city trails behind its regional counterparts in business expansion because local developers don’t care about fitness centers.

Fitness First, which was acquired by Oaktree Capital Management and Marathon Asset Management almost a year ago, targets adding just one store in Hong Kong this year, compared with its target of five stores in Singapore or Thailand. Rents in the city are among the most expensive in its 377 outlets, Mok told the Hong Kong Economic Times.

That could explain why the landlord of Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui did not care to renew the lease with the fitness center, which had only 3,000 members. Fitness First moved to another location which turned out to have a higher rent, and had to raise membership fees since February. (Disclosure: I was a member who loved using its treadmills overlooking the lovely Victoria Harbour.)

Spare a thought for Wharf’s largest shopping center in Hong Kong: how many mainland tourists do you think are coming here for workouts?

Physical fitness has been a growing trend for Hong Kong people that fits their pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. Apart from running and weightlifting, indoor sports such as Thai boxing and yoga are gaining popularity in a high-pressure working city like Hong Kong — and especially in the wet and hot summer.

That is why gym membership in Asia has jumped to 5 percent of the population, from 3 percent a decade ago, but still trailing the 30 percent penetration rate in North America.

Things may not be as bad as it looks, Mr. Mok. If you can’t get through Wharf’s Harbour City, try its parent Wheelock Group, whose 36-year-old chairman Douglas Woo Chun-kuen is a fitness buff who puts in huge amounts of time in the gym.

And stay positive. The second generation of property tycoons such as Sino Land’s Darryl Ng Win-kong, Hopewell Holdings’ Thomas Wu Man-sun and even Stanley Ho’s son Lawrence Ho Yau-lung, are all sports lovers.

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EJ Insight writer

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