👟 Are Airport Gyms the Next Big Thing?

The tweets, market context and GTM plan to build something

Hey Founders,

☕️ Welcome back to our Friday newsletter: your gym trainer that turns a blind eye when you’re jamming to Lady Gaga then is at your side when you’re bench pressing a new PB 🏋️‍♀️

📰 Latest news: New York City’s an apocalypse movie. Apple dropped a $3,499 TV that fits on your face. The Binance CEO is on thin ice. The Miami FOMO got to Messi. And we’re starving to see some startup ideas.

Enough calamari, let’s hit the main meal.

🍽 Today's Menu:

  • 💸 The market size of airports and gym clubs

  • 🛫 How to validate a startup idea in that space

  • 📝 GTM napkin notes to build an MVP this weekend

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😴 Why Can’t Airports Be More Fun?

Airports are stressful and boring. But they don’t need to be. And so far the only dopamine-inducing parts of the airport I’ve seen are:

  • randomly being upgraded to first-class seats

  • getting an extra pretzel pack from the flight attendant

  • running into a C-list celebrity at your check-in gate

But airports are leaving a lot of chips on the table. And for those of you who don’t play poker: that means “money” 💸

You see, airports have 1 thing every startup wants: unlimited traffic and eyeballs trapped in one location.

Let’s just say, you don’t see Disneyworld and NFL stadiums wasting those kinda trapped eyeballs. Instead, they make magical experiences with your kids and develop highly coveted 30-second marketing slots that sell for $4M a piece.

Get the point? It’s a happening spot.

Take another high traffic spot like an airport, and all it offers us is vending machines of outdated chips and mediocre neck pillows to soak in the latest Nicolas Cage film. Not too desirable if you ask me.

A startup idea we’d love to see built: luxury gyms for airports.

Imagine, you arrive a few hours early before your trip to SF.

You scan your iPhone at a door, drop your bags, you’re handed a perfectly fitting pair of Nikes by the front desk and welcomed in by a professional trainer that’s leading a 45min spin class with 15 others in a beautifully lit, well-AC’d room.

  • You kickstart your endorphins,

  • You get your body and mind moving,

  • and fist-bump a few new faces before hitting the sauna

*ding, your smartphone alert says your flight’s boarding in 10 minutes. So you head over to the gate, chilled protein smoothie in hand, and step aboard.

Sounds like the dream right? Well, there’s numbers to back this up.

Here’s the napkin math on why one of you should build this.

💸 Aiports and Gyms Are Big Business

🛩 Airports Are Lucrative and Busy

  • According to Statista, the global airport industry's total revenue in 2020 was ~$172 billion

  • With ~42,000 airports small and big worldwide that makes the avg airport revenue at: $4.1 million

  • And the future is bright. The Airports Council International (ACI) in 2020 estimated the global airport infrastructure investment would reach $1.8 trillion between 2020 and 2040

  • And the ACI claimed over 9 billion passengers travelled in 2019

👟 Gyms are High Volume and Membership Driven

  • In Sept 2021, the global gym market was estimated to be worth around $96.7 billion

  • And Gym, Health & Fitness Clubs alone were worth $30.6bn in 2022

  • Research tells us profit margins in gyms vary based on location, membership pricing, operational costs, and the scale of the gym. Successful gyms typically aim for a profit margin of 20-30%.

  • IHRSA reported that gym memberships generate over 6 billion visits per year to 39,570 gym facilities across the U.S.

  • We all know the community hype that’s followed fitness brands like Peloton, lululemon, Nike, Adidas etc. Imagine the brand value of a startup being first to a new traveller fitness movement and attracting the nomad/business community that’s always on the move.

  • Sample market size for one city: In 2019, Canada's busiest airport (Toronto) saw 50.5 million. If 5% of that amount converts to buy a daily gym pass on their big trip that year that’s 2,500,000 buyers…

Here’s how we’d validate interest in the big idea:

  1. Survey 100+ travellers: ask if they'd pay to have access to a gym or wellness studio in their airport before/after a flight. Dig into their fitness needs and what facilities (gym, sauna, showers, smoothie bar etc) would make them willing to pay a premium to stay fit while on the go.

  2. Get stakeholder input: reach out to client-facing (partnerships/biz dev execs) airport authorities and travel agencies to pitch them the idea. Get creative with Linkedin, email intros from a friend or visit them in person. See if they’re excited about the concept. Bonus: bring it up with one of the big sponsors of the airport to see if you can get their buy-in first.

  3. Create a pre-launch waitlist: spin up some buzz on Twitter, Reddit, Linkedin, Kernal etc where folks can sign up and express their interest. Screenshot that and show it to your meetings above. It's like saying, Demonstrate demand to push the envelope.

  4. Build a Digital Community: spin up a simple mobile app or website that provides fitness routines, tips, and recommendations specifically tailored for travellers. This can serve as an audience builder to gauge interest and gather feedback before investing in gym infrastructure.

Now onto the fun stuff if you reallyyyy wanna get serious about next steps. Who knows, you could have a cousin that works in the airline industry for all we know. You and them could be the perfect duo to spin something up.

So here’s how you could build an MVP:

  1. Pick a low-hanging fruit airport: do some research to find an airport with an open-minded leadership team, decent foot traffic, and a relatively close commute to your home.

  2. Ask for permission or ask for forgiveness: Propose to the airport (or seek forgiveness afterwards) to set up a mini pop-up gym as a pilot. It could be just outside the airport, in the lobby area or with plenty of space in a quieter area of the airport.

  3. Be bold and get footage: Make it modern, well-branded, and stack the deck with some friends/family to come by your min pop up to capture some FOMO photos for your next meeting with the airport. This lets you test the waters and get some ammo for future momentum.

  4. What’s a mini pop-up gym? It could be 10 mats and some pump-up music with a fitness coach, it could be a cart with smoothie juice and 10 skipping ropes. it could be a couple of stationary bikes. Anything to get the big idea across. Set up some hidden cameras and you’re golden.

  5. Subtle bonus ideas: If that’s too scary, you could kick off by having a few fitness trainers roam the airport, setup a table to provide personalized workouts, get a mini stretching circle together or even setup a quieter area with guided meditation.

The main point is: get the idea in motion.

Now Let’s Talk Revenue Potential:

  • let’s say the average gym membership is $50/mo

  • if you offered a one-time $5 drop-in fee (or made it included in premium tickets for certain airlines) that’s a low barrier

  • as mentioned earlier, Canada's busiest airport in Toronto see 50 million travellers/year.

  • If 5% of that amount converts to buy a daily drop in pass on their big trip that year that’s 2,500,000 buyers x $5.00 which = $12.5 million for one year of revenue. And that’s if 5/100 people passing your gym studio walk in. Pretty fair odds.

Monetization Options:

  1. Royalty model: you could share a percentage of the fees paid by travellers with the airports. That way, they earn extra money while you offer your fitness services.

  2. Subscription membership for frequent travellers: they pay a monthly fee and get unlimited access to airport gyms in multiple airports; covering all the big ones across North America

  3. Partner with a big brand: team up with someone like UnderArmour, lululemon, or Nike and offer the perk to just their customers when they verify a piece of their clothing or a receipt from that year. Could be an easy $10-$50m marketing activation for their team to test as a new community engagement vertical for their top fans.

  4. Premium+ Offering: imagine the first-class flyers. They’d 200% be down to pay for a bonus add-on like personal training sessions, spa treatments, and nutritional consultations for an extra fee. They could access it right in their private lounges or have a trainer/fitness coach notified when they wanna skip the line.

🐦 Tweets to Back Up the Idea

Enough chitter chatter. Listen to what the founder of ProductHunt and others are saying:

So that’s today’s deep dive, folks.

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🐦 Founder Tweet of the Week

💚 The Kernal Fam

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