The Future of Leisure, Recreation and Sport in Canada: A SWOT for Small Sized Enterprises

Introduction

The leisure, recreation and sport industries in Canada, as has been the
case in most nations throughout the world, have been subject to globalization
and corporate influence. In recent years, the number of small sized leisure,
recreation and sport enterprises (i.e., family or individually owned sport
stores or health clubs) have drastically been reduced as large corporations
such as Play It Again Sports and Goodlife Fitness have cornered the Canadian
Market from coast to coast.

Although globalization and corporate influence may present some ease
to consumers, in the sense that standardization exists and there are no
surprises in respect to what you expect to purchase and what you actually
receive, the “quality of services” is subject to question.
When personal services such as leisure, recreation and sports become subject
to big corporations, focus on the individual consumer may become lost
in the shuffle as individual needs are often overlooked.

Despite recent globalization and corporate trends in Canada, the desire
to establish small enterprises continues to exist, particularly among
the young and immigrant populations. In 2000, David Foot reported that
the “millennium busters” are the largest cohort after baby
boomers in Canada, meaning that this population will enter the work force
in the next 10-15 years. Moreover, Statistics Canada reported in 2003
that immigration to Canada is the highest it has been in 70 years. What
does this growth in the number of young Canadians and immigrants mean
for the future of small sized leisure, recreation and sport enterprises
in Canada? Historically, many of Canada’s small enterprises have
been owned and operated by young Canadians and immigrants. If this continues
to be the case in the future, what will be the strengths, weaknesses,
opportunities and threats for the existence of such enterprises?

The purpose of this study is to present the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities
and threats for the future for small sized leisure, recreation and sports
enterprises in Canada. To fulfill this purpose, this paper is divided
into three parts: (1) social trends in Canada, (2) small sized leisure,
recreation and sport enterprises in Canada, and (3) a SWOT for small sized
leisure, recreation and sport enterprises in Canada.

Social Trends in Canada

Recent trends in Canada indicate that: (1) Canada is an aging society
with the largest cohort – baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1966) entering
senior years, (2) Canadians are experiencing a good quality of life and
have a sound health care system thus living longer as mortality rates
have declined, (3) immigration has reached the highest level it has been
in the past 70 years (The Daily, 2003), (4) low fertility rates continue,
(5) a consistent growth of the young adult population is taking place,
and (6) the Canadian work force is aging (Chui, 1996).

Education trends revealed by Statistics Canada (1996) indicate that the
education level of Canadians is increasing as the number of Canadians
having completed university is greater than the number of Canadians with
less than grade 9 education. Moreover, more than 10% of Canadians have
graduated a university (Statistics Canada, 1996).

The early 2000s, as did the early 1990s, were difficult time periods
for the Canadian economy as Canadians faced an economic recession. Cutbacks
in government social programs took place and unemployment rates were high.
However, despite less discretionary income Canadians continued to spend
more on consumer goods and services. In the past decade for instance,
spending by Canadians on consumer goods and services jumped from $14,801
to $16,533. Yet, a portion of this spending was financed by credit as
the volume of consumer debt continued to increase in the 1990s (Williams,
2000).

Research by Crompton (2000) reveals that the general overall level of
health of Canadians is increasing with each generation. “Advances
in public health measures and sanitary control, pharmaceuticals and medical
technology in the 20th century have had a dramatic effect on the overall
level of health in Canada” (Crompton, 2000: 17). In fact, the World
Health Organization forecasts that the average lifespan of Canadians will
increase to 81 years of age by the year 2025.

Urbanization has continued to increase in Canada as fewer people are
living in rural areas. Of note however, a recent trend in living patterns
shows that some Canadians have moved back to smaller cities and towns
in order to experience country living (Foot and Stoffman, 1998).

The number of young adults living at home is increasing (Boyd and Norris,
1999) as is the number of young people choosing to get married later in
life. Statistics Canada (1992) reveals that the average age of first marriage
for men is 29 whereas for women it is 27. Furthermore, the number of common-law
unions, divorces, remarriages and Canadians living alone has also increased
(Oderkirk, 2000: Clark, 2002).

The structure and nature of the work force in Canada has also changed
tremendously in the past 30 years both in size and structure as the number
of self-employed Canadians has increased. Technology has also impacted
changes in the work force as computers have taken the place of skilled
workers. Moreover, knowledge and skill to use the computer and the internet
have become a necessity in most jobs (Dickenson and Ellison, 1999).

Canadians appear to be working more hours and spending less time on leisure
and recreation (DeMont, 1999) as changes in the service sector continue
to take place. A growing trend in Canada that has occurred in the commercial
and public sectors is amalgamation. Another trend has been for two or
more service sectors to work together to provide a service or services.
A third prevalent trend is “contracting out” as many government
organizations have contracted out sites and services to the commercial
sector.

Small Sized Leisure, Recreation and Sport Enterprises
in Canada

In Canada, thousands of small sized leisure, recreation and sport enterprises
exist making it virtually impossible to list all. Furthermore, it would
be difficult to also provide an all-inclusive classification of all small
sized leisure, recreation and sport enterprises in Canada as the scope
of these enterprises is diverse and complex.

Nonetheless, research by Bullaro and Edginton (1986) attempts to provide
an all-inclusive classification system of enterprises that exist in the
leisure, recreation and sport industries. For Bullaro and Edginton (1986),
five classifications of leisure, recreation and sport enterprises exist.
These are: (1) travel and tourism, (2) entertainment services, (3) leisure
services in the natural environment, (4) hospitality/food services, and
(5) retail activities.

Travel and tourism enterprises refer to everything from tour operators
and animation to “sport tourism events.” Entertainment services
encompass the performing arts, theatre, and sports events such as baseball
and football games at all levels. Leisure services in the natural environment
refer to activities such as sport fishing, sailing and hiking. Hospitality/food
services is a classification that is used to refer to hotels, restaurants,
camp sites and the “cottage experience.” Whereas, retail services
refers to commercial, privately operated enterprises such as health clubs,
golf clubs and sport fitness and equipment shops.

Research by McIntosh and Goeldner (1984) provides a different classification
of leisure, recreation and sport enterprises. For McIntosh and Goeldner
(1984) four classifications of leisure, recreation and sport enterprises
exist. These four areas are (1) transportation, (2) accommodations, (3)
shopping, and (4) activities. Transportation is the term used to refer
to all tourist oriented services that are movement-driven such as airlines
and trains, buses and automobile. “Accomodations” is a related
term to the aforementioned that concentrates once again on tourism services,
particularly those of hospitality, i.e., hotels, lodging, resorts, etc.
The third classification, shopping, refers to the sales industry of leisure,
recreation and sport – everything from gymnasiums and fitness centers
to fitness shops. Finally, “activities” reflects the actual
services provided by leisure, recreation and sport industries, i.e., bowling,
squash or weightlifting.

While reflecting on the research of Bollaro and Edginton (1984) and McIntosh
and Goeldner (1984), the following four classifications of small sized
leisure, recreation and sport enterprises have been put together. It is
important to note that these classifications have been put together in
attempt to categorize the broad magnitude of small sized enterprises,
meaning those that consist of less than fifty employees with an “owner-in-shop.”

Tourism:
Small sized leisure, recreation and sport enterprises that fall under
the “tourism” category are “travel-oriented” services
that are owned and operated by families or individuals and that consist
of less than fifty paid employees. These services refer to everything
from family operated inns and bed and breakfasts to “mini-van”
excursions and the operation of touristic souvenir shops. The focus of
“tourism” small sized enterprises is on providing a service
that caters to visitors, that is those who travel more than 100km from
their place of origin.

Outdoors:
The “outdoor” category engulfs all leisure, recreation and
sport activities that one experiences in the natural environment. The
“outdoor” small sized enterprises include the operation of
family-owned “mini-golf” parks, private hiking tours, and
bird-watching excursions. The focus of the “outdoor” classification
is on the provision of services that tend to be provided one-on-one or
to small groups of people with the ultimate intent of financial profit.

Entertainment:
Entertainment is a classification used to describe the “staging
of a show, activity or performance.” Although we tend to identify
“entertainment” in large scales (i.e., internet, mega stadiums
holding professional sport events, national arts centres, etc.), “entertainment”
experiences also take place on a much smaller scale. For example, small
sized entertainment industries include party clowns, street musicians,
artists, and musical bands operated by a group of friends.

Facilities and Equipment:
The “facilities and equipment” classification is broad and
diverse offering many different avenues for the existence of small sized
leisure, recreation and sport enterprises. Some examples of small sized
“facilities and equipment” services include the following:
(1) bicycle repair shops, (2) piano lessons at the private residence of
the instructor, (3) individually owned fitness clubs, (4) privately owned
pool halls, and (5) family owned “sports bars-restaurants”.

A SWOT for Small Sized Leisure, Recreation and Sport Enterprises
in Canada

Current social trends in Canada are used to predict what may unfold in
the future in Canada. Through an examination of current social trends
and an overview of demographic shifts a prediction of the strengths, weaknesses,
opportunities and threats that face the existence of small sized leisure,
recreation and sport enterprises in Canada for the future (up to 2020)
is put forth.

Strengths:

  1. People will continue to desire personal service, particularly as
    more and more people are choosing to live alone.
    The need to be served coupled by the need to experience “social
    activities” will provide an avenue for growth in small sized leisure,
    recreation and sport organizations. We have an innate need to be with
    others, and the social nature of leisure, recreation and sport experiences
    helps us fulfill our social needs.
  2. The coming of work age of the “millennium busters” will
    once again crowd the work force enticing the expansion of small sized
    enterprises.
    The “baby boomers” are now aging and have started to exit
    the work force. The “bust” and “echo” age cohorts
    simply do not have the numbers of the “baby boomers” and
    thus less people enter the work force. The “millennium busters”,
    (1996-2010), although not expected to be quite as large as the “baby
    boomers”, will be the first generation since the “baby boomers”
    to congest the work force. More people will mean new opportunities for
    small sized leisure, recreation and sport services.
  3. The need to live in the suburbs will lead to the creation of small
    sized enterprises.
    The expansion of suburban communities is a growing phenomenon in Canada
    as people are choosing to live outside of the urban centre. New communities
    mean that new opportunities for growth and development will exist. The
    development of small sized leisure, recreation and sport enterprises
    has tremendous potential as new communities emerge.
  4. The growth of immigration will enhance the number of small sized
    enterprises as “new Canadians” have always pursued the entrepreneurial
    dream.
    Immigration in Canada is currently the highest it has been in the past
    70 years. A large number of these immigrants are young and have aspiring
    entrepreneurial dreams and innovative ideas that may lead to the creation
    of new small sized leisure, recreation and sport enterprises.
  5. The fact that society is more “technological” will aid
    in the provision of small sized enterprises. One of the strengths for
    expansion of small sized leisure, recreation and sport enterprises in
    Canada stems from our exposure to novel ideas through the internet.
    Today’s young are technological progressed and have managed to
    shrink the world by learning more about the international community
    through the internet. It is possible that many of these young Canadians
    will bring international experiences acquired through the internet into
    the Canadian business world through the establishment of small sized
    leisure, recreation and sport enterprises.

Weaknesses:

  1. The expansion of large corporations and “mega-stores”
    will make it difficult for small enterprises to survive.
    A number of chain businesses continue to crowd the Canadian market.
    For example, “Goodlife Fitness”, a Canadian based franchise,
    has opened a number of health clubs in just about every region in Canada.
    The incentive for membership is that you can participate in any of there
    gyms throughout Canada. In addition, its mega structure and diverse
    scope of facilities make it difficult for small sized health clubs to
    compete.
  2. Lack of skill, knowledge and experience by young entrepreneurs may
    lead to the closing of small sized enterprises.
    Many who start small sized leisure, recreation or sport enterprises
    often lack skill, knowledge and experience in the business world. Although
    they may be experts in the nature of the leisure, recreation or sport
    service that they offer, the lack of “real” business experience
    may lead to the demise of their small sized enterprise.
  3. Cutbacks in government social programs may lead to reduced public
    sector support (i.e., grants) for the expansion of small sized enterprises.Since the 1980s a number of publicly subsidized social programs have
    been reduced or eliminated in Canada. Many of these programs aided the
    development of small sized leisure, recreation and sport enterprises
    in Canada. It is unlikely that social programs eliminated or reduced
    in Canada will once again be re-established by 2020.
  4. The fact that the more senior sector of society may lack computer
    skills may limit the magnitude of the type of small sized enterprises
    created by the younger sector of society.
    It is highly probable that the computer literate young population of
    society will be hindered in its technological innovation of small sized
    leisure, recreation and sport enterprises as a growing concern exists
    to cater the needs of aging “baby boomers” (many whom are
    not computer literate). The growth of small sized leisure, recreation
    and sport enterprises may thus be restricted to a more basic nature
    rather than an innovative one requiring the use of computer skills.
  5. The diversity of experiences and services offered by large corporations
    will entice society, particularly the “haves” to experience
    the services of larger enterprises.
    It usually is the case that organizations that have the capital tend
    to also have the most up-to-date facilities, services and equipment.
    The largest cohort of society, the “baby boomers” is not
    only aging, they are also aging with more discretionary income and in
    better health condition than previous generations. As a result, the
    experiences and services of larger pricy corporations may be the preferred
    choice of “baby boomers” when it comes time to fulfill leisure,
    recreation and sport needs.

Opportunities:

  1. The trend of “contracting out” by the public sector will
    present some opportunities to small sized enterprises.
    Although this may not be the case for larger more lucrative enterprises
    such as ski resorts or golf clubs, it may be the case with smaller leisure,
    recreation and sport enterprises such as wave pools and tennis clubs.
    As government organizations continue to strive to balance deficits,
    contracting out opportunities will likely continue to expand.
  2. The fact that more and more Canadians are becoming higher educated
    will aid in the creation of new, innovative small sized enterprises.The number of Canadians who have graduated a university continues to
    growth. Canada as a nation is now more educated than ever before. This
    expanded knowledge-base will lead to the creation of innovative ideas
    and opportunities for small sized leisure, recreation and sport enterprises.
  3. Cutbacks in government social programs will open a window of opportunities
    for the creation of new small sized enterprises.
    The elimination or reduction of publicly operated leisure, recreation
    and sport services will lead to opportunities for the development of
    such services, particularly in the private sector. The creation of small
    sized leisure, recreation and sport enterprises that cater to the leisure,
    recreation or sport needs of society that were once fulfilled through
    public sector programs, poses an opportunity for growth.
  4. The “desire to spend, be entertained and experience something
    new” will pose new opportunities for small sized enterprises.Mass media bombards us with new ideas, new experiences and new knowledge.
    In addition, a global emphasis has been placed on the pursuit of the
    “good life” and “spending to experience,” particularly
    when it comes to leisure, recreation and sport. A new opportunity is
    thus presented to the private sector for the creation of innovative
    small sized leisure, recreation and sport enterprises.
  5. “Downsizing and amalgamation” will cause loss of public
    sector jobs and will lead individuals toward creating small sized enterprises.The amalgamation experience of cities and towns of the late 1990s and
    early 2000s has led to job loss and unemployment. Many individuals who
    have lost jobs possess a wealth of experience in the leisure, recreation
    and sport industries. This wealth of experience has in some cases been
    put to practice through the creation of small sized leisure, recreation
    and sport enterprises. In the future, the limited number of public sector
    employment opportunities in leisure, recreation and sport will lead
    some of those trained in these areas to the establishment of small sized
    leisure, recreation and sport enterprises.

Threats:

  1. Inflation and rising costs may limit the spending power of society
    and the potential to experience private sector small sized leisure,
    recreation and sport enterprises.
    When prices go up one of the first industries to suffer is leisure,
    recreation and sport. When a purchasing choice has to be made, the necessities
    of food, water, shelter and transportation take precedence over leisure,
    recreation and sport. As prices for leisure, recreation and sport services
    continue to increase so does the threat to the expansion of this industry,
    including small sized leisure, recreation and sport enterprises.
  2. The lack of discretionary income may limit the amount allotted to
    spending on small sized leisure, recreation and sport enterprises.
    The spending power of society determines to what extent we participate
    in leisure, recreation and sport services. Although Canadians do value
    leisure, recreation and sport, the fear to overextend and spend beyond
    ones means may limit involvement in this industry. Unless more disposable
    income becomes available to Canadians, a threat will continue to exist
    for the expansion of small sized leisure, recreation and sport enterprises
    as the Canadian public will be more restrictive in its spending patterns.
  3. Since the 1970s, the start of each decade has experienced an economic
    recession.
    This trend may threaten parts of the next 20 years, possibly, the onset
    of the 2010s and the 2020s. The mere fact that the economy is unstable
    will without doubt impact the state of condition of society as a whole,
    and the distribution of monies in all industries, including leisure,
    recreation and sport.
  4. The ongoing threat of terrorism has hindered the growth and existence
    of many small sized tourism enterprises.
    Since September 11, 2001, the threat of terrorist attacks has grown.
    Industries such as tourism have largely been impacted by this threat
    as people have become reluctant to travel. As a result, leisure, recreation
    and sport services related to tourism have suffered and likely will
    continue to suffer. This is the case not only for large enterprises
    but for small sized ones as well.
  5. The fear that Quebec may one day separate from Canada continues to
    exist, meaning that growth in small sized enterprises may be limited.Those wishing to establishing small sized leisure, recreation and sport
    enterprises may be reluctant to do so when hearing than one of the provinces
    of the nation may decide to one day separate. In the case of Quebec,
    some aspiring young entrepreneurs in or around Quebec may be reluctant
    to establish small sized leisure, recreation and sport enterprises due
    to fear of what may happen if Quebec indeed separates.

Conclusion

Although it is difficult to predict the future of the existence and
development of small sized leisure, recreation and sport enterprises in
Canada, this paper presents the possible strengths, weaknesses, opportunities
and threats that this area of the service sector may face based on current
social and demographic trends. Based on what is currently happening in
Canada, socially and demographically, it may be that the future will unfold
an expansion, at least to some degree in small sized leisure, recreation
and sport industries, particularly as the number of young, better educated
Canadians expands. However, one of the biggest weaknesses and threats
will continue to be instability in the economy. Lack of money and the
distribution of capital may hinder the development of small sized leisure,
recreation and sport enterprises in Canada.

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