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In the last couple of weeks, some excellent news for our industry was announced with easing of restrictions on overseas travel to all countries not on the “red” list, and COVID testing requirements to be reduced for fully-vaccinated adults. This news was further buoyed as the U.S. lifted its 18-month restrictions to allow fully-vaccinated visitors from the UK and the rest of Europe to travel to the USA, resulting in one international airline reporting a 600% increase in bookings.
This news has realised a wonderful ripple effect for our industry, delivering a much-welcomed boost to tanning salon footfall at a time when salons would normally start to enter the annual low season. But as we all know, there has been nothing “normal” about business over the last 18 months and this extension to the tanning season represents a fantastic and, in many cases, much-needed revenue boost.
Ease of restrictions is delivering a much-welcomed boost to salon footfall at a time when we would normally start to enter the annual low season.
In the UK, one of the main reasons people use a tanning bed is to gain a pre-holiday base tan before they jet off to much sunnier climes and then, to top-up their tan in the weeks after their return. This year, the majority of people committed to a staycation rather than risk last-minute travel bans and the not insignificant costs of COVID testing prior to and on return from overseas travel. And let’s not even factor in the costs of hotel quarantine in a so-called “red zone!”
There’s no doubt additional revenue is always welcomed, but the timing of this extended season couldn’t be better for many salon owners, with most of the government’s pandemic-funding support initiatives coming to an end. This winter was always going to be a challenge for many businesses, and not just in the indoor tanning industry, with government support ending and cash reserves perhaps only just starting to be replenished.
Our industry has already shown great resilience during the pandemic and the commitment to ensuring salons have fully complied with all government COVID requirements has no doubt helped secure continued customer trust and loyalty. Interestingly, salons are also reporting a steady new footfall from those who recognise the benefits of optimum vitamin D status and have not had their usual summer of sun exposure, either from the lack of overseas travel and/or combined with our own poor summer, weather-wise.
These factors may very well be influencing the green shoots of a recovering economy sprouting up nationwide with new start-up salons opening, chains expanding and many existing salons investing in additional and/or upgrading existing tanning bed offerings. These are all excellent signs for our industry’s post-pandemic recovery. The only serious challenge that could potentially hinder this excellent recovery pathway to some degree is the pressure on tanning bed manufacturers to meet demand. There’s no escaping the fact that just about every manufacturing sector is to some extent struggling with securing the level of component parts and raw materials they need.
So, I don’t for one minute think our post-pandemic recovery will be plain sailing all the way; but I am certainly feeling a great deal more optimistic than this time last year – so let’s see where the next 12 months take us!
In the tanning industry since 1982, Gary is Managing Director of the UK subsidiary of Ergoline, and runs Ergoline Plus, the exclusive distributor for a wide range of sunless products and spray systems. He is also Chairman of the Media Committee for the UK’s Sunbed Association & a European Sunlight Association member.
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