Gym membership: why Ireland is among the most expensive in Europe

Smart Money: It’s not cheap but competition for the sweaty euro is benefiting consumers

Gym membership in Ireland is the most expensive in the EU but it’s getting more competitive. Photograph: Irish Times Graphics

Gym membership in Ireland is the most expensive in the EU but it’s getting more competitive. Photograph: Irish Times Graphics

On the face of it Irish people are paying up for gym membership, with rates here among the highest in Europe. But this is partly down to the structure of the sector – and also to the cost of doing business here, particularly in Dublin. The better news is that high demand is driving competition and choice: as well as traditional “leisure centre” membership, increasingly consumers can now choose low-cost models – or high-cost options involving detailed fitness training and advice. In many ways your gym bill tells us a lot about the economy. And watch out – because a key tax change in the budget might push it higher.

Gyms are big business and competition for the “sweaty euro” is on the up. A recent report by Deloitte and Europeactive estimated that 500,000 are members of Irish gyms, with total revenues just shy of €300 million. In some ways the Irish market is unusual, with many gyms being what used to be called local leisure centres, often with pools and attached to local hotels. This differs from other EU countries, where low cost operators are longer established and have a much bigger market share.

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