IHRSA European Congress Attracts Fitness Executives From 33 Countries

    The IHRSA European Congress celebrated its 20th anniversary with a return to Portugal 17-19 October for education, networking, and dealmaking with over 350 attendees and 15 sponsors.

    BOSTON, MA—October 24, 2023—IHRSA—the Health & Fitness Association, a global community of health and fitness industry leaders—concluded its 2023 IHRSA European Congress last week at the Lisbon Congress Centre in Lisbon, Portugal.

    “The Congress not only offers educational and networking opportunities, but it’s also a great place for business meetings and dealmaking between our 15 sponsors and the 335 health and fitness executives who attended, representing 33 countries,” said IHRSA President & CEO Liz Clark.

    This year’s event was a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the European Congress as well as the return of the event, which had not been held since 2019.

    “Portugal was the perfect choice for the return of the Congress and the celebration of our milestone anniversary,” Liz said. “Everyone was excited to be back in Portugal, and much of the event’s success was due to our partner, Portugal Activo, who collaborated with us to ensure the education sessions were relevant to European operators, particularly on issues such as the value-added tax, ChatGPT, and fitness trends in Europe. We thank them for all of their efforts.”

    “We enjoyed working with IHRSA on creating an event that offered not only perspectives from inside the fitness industry but also from outside of it,” said Jose Reis, president of Portugal Activo. “That outside perspective was important to have at this year’s event, especially those related to technology as artificial intelligence is playing a larger role in health club and studio operations.”

    In a keynote sponsored by Perfect Gym, performance coach and author, Pete Cohen with Mi365 shared how people can make themselves into a number of things regardless of their innate talents—even rising to the level of great or exceptional. He said, “The greatest thing you’ll ever do is being who you are.”

    One of the event keynote speakers, Michelle King, was unable to attend. At the last minute, a reliable and always supportive IHRSA member stepped up to the plate with a knockout presentation. West Wood Clubs CEO Alan Leach described in his keynote, sponsored by Lacertosus, what research tells the industry about pricing and why the fitness industry can and should charge more.

    Iconic Health Clubs Founder and CEO Barry Walsh welcomed the much-anticipated return of the Congress.

    “One of the best decisions I ever made as a club owner was to join IHRSA, and the European Congress is one of the best experiences for me with quality education, networking opportunities, and the ability to talk with sponsors in a quieter setting,” said Barry, who participated on a panel sponsored by Freemotion about trends in the European fitness market.

    “The opportunity to learn from and network with others in this industry is paramount to creating a successful business. I recommend this event to anyone looking to increase their knowledge base and connections, which ultimately will enrich their overall business.”

    More highlights from speakers and education sessions included:

    • Manuel Dias, national technology officer and Board member for Microsoft Portugal, who offered a practical demonstration about artificial intelligence and ChatGPT, noting that AI won’t take your job, but someone using AI will.

    • Ignacio Martinez, partner at KPMG, on how the value-added tax will affect the health and fitness industry.

    • A presentation sponsored by WellnessSpace Brands, as Vivagym Group CEO Juan Del Río Nieto offered insights into how to hone in on your leadership and team-building skills to create a strong company culture, unified in the common goal of creating a healthier world.

    At the end of the second day, attendees split into roundtables led in English, French, Portuguese, or Spanish to discuss how they could apply takeaways from the day’s sessions at their facilities.

    Multiple times each day, attendees had opportunities to hear about new products and services in the Sponsor Marketplace, a showcase for some of the 15 sponsors of the event.

    To wrap up our time in Lisbon, on Friday, Congress delegates and the IHRSA team viewed the inner workings of four of Lisbon's top health clubs:

    • GO fit,

    • Holmes Place,

    • Joaquim Chaves Fitness, and

    • The Code.

    About IHRSA

    IHRSA—the Health & Fitness Association, a global community of health and fitness industry leaders—is a not-for-profit trade association representing the global fitness industry of over 200,000 health and fitness facilities and their suppliers. Founded in 1981, IHRSA maintains a leadership role in advancing physical activity, which is critical for peak health and to fight the battle against obesity and chronic lifestyle diseases.

    As the world's leading authority on the commercial health and fitness club industry, IHRSA’s mission is to grow, promote, and protect the health and fitness industry, while providing its members with benefits and resources. IHRSA is the publisher of Club Business International, the leading monthly magazine for the global fitness industry. IHRSA's Convention & Trade Show will be hosted from March 6-8, 2024, in Los Angeles.

    Visit IHRSA on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

    Author avatar

    Pam Kufahl

    Pamela Kufahl is IHRSA's Senior Director of Communications. She is responsible for driving social media content, producing member and industry-facing resources, such as the Global Report and Health Club Consumer Report, and creating tools to help promote the industry domestically and to international media, NGOs, and policy organizations. When Pamela isn't in the office, she enjoys exercising, visiting museums, going to the theater and movies, and fostering puppies.