The increase in life expectancy and access to education create different outcomes in contemporary societies. One of the new growing trends, one of which probably began developing in high-income countries and that has been spreading throughout the world is a growing concern for personal appearance and overall health.

In the past, women practically monopolized the consumers market for beauty and health products, from body wash to makeup. However, the vast majority of large companies in the beauty and health industry have now developed lines of products destined only for men. Likewise, there has been an exponential growth of how much time people invest in exercises on a regular basis, and with it, specialized centers designed to meet this demand continues to grow. Cuba has not been the exception.

Those of us who live on this Island have noticed an increase in the number of gyms that have flourished on practically every corner of the country. Just in Havana, there’s a wide offer of fitness services to fit the needs of clients of different incomes. There are different services offered by different businesses, all of them striving to bring the country closer to international standards. The vast majority of these fitness facilities are private owned businesses and thus face many obstacles when trying to carry out their projects —many of which are shared with the rest of the Cuban entrepreneurial community.

At the same time, when walking through the city, one can’t help but notice that several facilities, once destined to sports and health, have been abandoned or are in terrible condition, as a consequence of lack of maintenance and neglect. This however is not an irremediable problem or something that has to wait for a complicated solution, State funds or anything else. Under current conditions, a scheme could be developed through which many of these facilities, not linked to high performance sports, could be managed by the private sector.

A lease contract would establish the types of service that would be offered at the facility depending on its specific conditions and rates. To preserve its social function, contracts would be signed with educational centers and with companies interested in offering the services available at  these facilities to their employees. The contract should also establish a minimum lease time that would allow getting back the initial investments that would be needed in the initial stages of recovery of said facilities. Due to the characteristics of this market, a large number of clients would allow to keep prices moderate to low.

This approach would bring a lot of advantages. The facilities, which are currently closed or in very bad shape, would stimulate depressed areas while contributing to offer alternatives that do not exist today. It would create jobs within the surrounding communities and many citizens would have the possibility of using their free time in a healthy way.

Depending on the flexibility of the authorities, importing certain equipment could be granted. The flourishing of these facilities would also stimulate the emergence and consolidation of a local industry dedicated to manufacture, production and repairing of equipment and accessories.

During this stage three main obstacles could be in the way of achieving this, all of which are manageable depending on the good will of the interested parties. Firstly, although there would be a better and bigger fitness and health services offer, to enjoy the right to use the facilities, the clients would have to pay a fee. I would assume that given the growing demand for these services, a large number of clients would allow to keep prices at acceptable rates.

A second aspect has to do with the need to acquire specialized equipment and supplies. The monopoly the State holds in foreign trade would imply the need of certain flexibility by the authorities as well as the participation of State companies.There are many well known negative experiences regarding this.

Finally, the greatest obstacle would be having to face archaic practices and mind sets that would surely oppose expanding private participation in services hitherto exclusively retained by the State. However, this is nothing new.

An honest pondering of this situation would almost certainly show that an idea as the one presented in this article has more advantages than disadvantages. It’s time we think about how to move forward.

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