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Future of Leisure

A Foresight Report for Legal & General Investment Management Real Assets


Commissioned by:

11 October 2018

Author: Kathryn Bishop

Image: WAH Nails flagship store in Soho, London


The Future of Leisure Foresight Report, commissioned by Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM) Real Assets and produced by The Future Laboratory, explores the key social, technological and cultural shifts set to have an impact on UK leisure in the next decade, and examines the emergence of new opportunities that will inform exciting, practical and future-proofed new directions for leisure destinations. Read an excerpt below.

In the next decade, leisure in the UK will undergo a major transformation, through the emergence of cutting-edge leisure formats, innovative dining and immersive, hyper-connected and age-inclusive destinations. 

At present, the UK leisure market is worth £117bn ($162.3bn, €132.6bn) in revenue, according to Deloitte’s Passion for Leisure study. The sector is attracting one and a half times more discretionary spending than retail and is growing twice as fast.

Spending on leisure emphasises just how important it is to UK family life. Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that some households spend about a fifth of their weekly outgoings on leisure, while 75% of UK holidaymakers are opting for staycations, according to 2017 Barclay’s data– a positive development for UK leisure operators.

Dining out was the UK’s most popular leisure activity in the first quarter of 2016, with 85% of UK consumers preferring to visit cafés and restaurants rather than dining at home, according to Deloitte. The number of dining out visits is forecast to reach 83m in the UK in 2018, up 0.7% on 2017 figures, according to NPD Group.

Martin Raymond, co-founder of The Future Laboratory, explains: ‘Leisure activities are no longer the reserve of special occasions. UK consumers now regard leisure as essential to daily life.’

‘Spending on leisure might vary between UK regions, age groups and, as recent studies show, between men and women, but the desire to socialise, play, interact and be entertained remains intrinsic. Consequently, leisure is a strong and attractive area for investment, and an exciting arena in which new brands, innovations and experiences are constantly emerging to keep consumers entertained,’ adds Raymond.


: Fusion Cinema

Gucci Garden by Alessandro Michele, Florence
33 new UK multiplex cinemas are set for development in the next three years, with 50% of these in shopping centres rather than dependable mixed-use developments such as out-of-town leisure parks

The cinema is an enduring stronghold of entertainment and socialising in the UK, and it will remain a hive of convivial activity in the mid-2020s, becoming a multifaceted, mixed-use destination known as the Fusion Cinema.

According to CBRE, 33 new UK multiplex cinemas are set for development in the next three years, with 50% of these in shopping centres rather than dependable mixed-use developments such as out-of-town leisure parks.

Importantly, however, these new developments will provide cinema operators and leisure developers with the opportunity to explore how cinema blueprints, functions and features must be reworked to produce future-proofed Fusion Cinemas.

As the anchor for in- and out-of-town leisure destinations, the Fusion Cinema will be a multisensory space that fosters a sense of community. A vibrant hybrid of traditional screens and heightened hospitality, it will use new technology and instinctual zoning to create energetic and alluring destinations not just for film, but for friends and families to socialise, learn and explore new leisure pursuits.

The reconfiguration of screens and the integration of intuitive technologies such as AI will transform cinema visits into hyper-personalised experiences that pull people away from their sofas and streaming channels and into the embrace of Fusion Cinema.

: The Civic Cinema

By the mid-2020s, UK cinemas will be cultural community spaces that offer film screenings, co-working, education and enhanced dining, with programmes of events running from morning to night.

With redefined zoning that makes use of dead space and turns defunct screens into multi-use halls, lost daytime hours will be put to use, drawing on the energy of local communities and their need to inspire new schemes and services.

‘For leisure operators, it will be increasingly about the soft programming of their spaces, the extracurricular activities they can offer,’ says Ashley Scott, Europe, Middle East, India and Africa region lead for leisure, hospitality and themed entertainment at AECOM. Examples include Kino in Amsterdam, which offers co-working and meeting spaces for locals, and Bristol’s Watershed cinema, which features a studio for artists, creative companies, technologists and academics to work together.

MK2VR, Bonsoir Paris
More than half (56%) of entertainment and media CEOs expect technology to reshape the industry by 2021

: The Multimedia Revolution

By the mid-2020s, artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) will drive a powerful Multimedia Revolution within Fusion Cinema, as UK leisure operators and developers recognise the powerful influence of these advancing technologies.

More than half (56%) ofentertainment and media CEOs expect technology to reshape the industry by 2021, according to PwC, enhancing how individual customers experience and interact with the cinema environment.

VR, for example, will enhance the shared experience of friends and family, providing more nuanced and meaningful interactions around films. Highlighting existing expectations, Omnico Group reports that 65% of respondents in a recent study of consumers in the UK, the US and China expect VR experiences to exist in theme parks by the early 2020s.

French cinema chain MK2 has created MK2VR, a location-based VR experience designed for groups of up to 12 friends, showing documentaries, short films and simulationsfrom about £10 ($14, €12) per visit.

: Esports Uprising

Building on the potential of VR arcades in the future Fusion Cinema, esports will reinforce the transformation of city centre cinemas into multimedia meccas for gaming fans to meet, enjoy international tournaments and improve their own gaming skills.

The tangible financial opportunities for the leisure market offered by esports are clear, with the value of the global esports market is expected to reach £1.4bn ($1.9bn, €1.5bn) in 2022, according to Ovum.

Driven by visually literate Generation I, Generation Z and Millennial consumers, the UK’s Esports Uprising will go hand in hand with the Fusion Cinema of the mid-2020s, with UK initiatives already under way to support the growing appetite for esports. 

‘Our pilot after-school esports clubs revealed demand for permanent, regional clubs in the future, not just from teachers and parents but from the children themselves,’ says Dominic Sacco, content director of the British Esports Association.


: Optimised Options

The Assemblage, New York
‘Today, people are busy with work, with families, with the daily grind and sometimes their own health is the least of their priorities.’
Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health Englan

In the decade ahead, the demands of consumers’ always-on, hyper-connected lifestyles will fuel the emergence of Optimised Options in leisure, fitness and casual dining formats.

‘Today, people are busy with work, with families, with the daily grind and sometimes their own health is the least of their priorities,’ says professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England.

Yet, as people become increasingly aware of modern living’s impact on their body and mind, they are beginning to consider how to improve their lifestyle.

In 2017, Nielsen Book reported a 13% rise in sales of wellbeing and mindfulness guides, something recognised by Judy Piatkus, founder of lifestyle publisher Piatkus Books, who notes: ‘Millennials, for example, are looking at their lives, saying: ‘This isn’t working, how can I manage my life? How can I be the best person I can be?’’

Such acknowledgement is fuelling a nationwide quest for personal optimisation. PwC reports that in the year to spring 2017, 61% of the UK population took steps to improve their health, while 66% improved their diet and 53% exercised more regularly. Meanwhile, the mindfulness app Headspace has reportedly been downloaded more than 11m times.

The expectation of future Optimised Options will generate myriad opportunities for new, innovative and engaging leisure, fitness and casual dining formats that support body and mind, and boost social interaction.

Social Fitness

In the decade ahead, leisure operators will recognise the benefits of providing city centre and out-of-town fitness and leisure spaces that double as vibrant social hives.

Gym membership continues to rise in the UK, up from 9.2m to 9.7m memberships in 2016, according to the Leisure DB. Capturing this growth, forward-thinking fitness brands are creating hubs of Social Fitness shaped by entertaining, hyper-connected shared experiences.

‘When it comes to leisure, people want a new experience that they haven’t had before, something that is going to wow them, is entertaining and immersive,’ notes MET Studio’s Peter Karn. At New Zealand’s Les Mills gyms, for example, spin classes already feature interactive big screens to transform boisterous sessions into challenging virtual rides through global cities.

Museum of Icecream, San Francisco. Image courtesy of Katie Gibbs.
Almost two-thirds of UK Millennials (58%) eat out at least once a week – twice the percentage of Baby Boomers (29%)

: Positive Pursuits

Beyond the gym, tomorrow’s Optimised Options will include Positive Pursuits – exciting and alternative leisure formats that inspire social interaction and set the benchmark for regional operations to follow.

According to Nesta, shared leisure activities contribute to wellbeing and feelings of inclusion. ‘This social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical wellbeing,’ says Emma Seppälä, science director of the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.

For tomorrow’s hyper-connected leisure consumers, escapism in such novel environments will provide both mood-enhancing benefits and visually inspiring surroundings. In the US, pop-up social leisure formats designed for the Instagram generation, such as the Museum of Ice Cream, capture the zeitgeist. For £27 ($38, €31) a visit, adults can wade through pools of sprinkles and devour exotic ice cream flavours amid the museum’s kitsch setting.

: Enhanced Eating

For optimisation-chasing consumers, casual dining will be transformed into Enhanced Eating – a tour de force of flavours, feel-good foods and novel experiences shaped by the impact of innovative technology.

Dining out is already an intrinsic part of UK consumers’ weekly leisure schedule. Almost two-thirds of UK Millennials (58%) eat out at least once a week – twice the percentage of Baby Boomers (29%), according to research by Nielsen.

Indeed, consumer appetite for independent brands and new flavours is inspiring leisure providers to animate unoccupied or short-term use spaces, adding community context to new developments. Examples include Bristol’s Wapping Wharf and Manchester’s Hatch, each of which has the potential to translate into – and transform – out-of-town dining hubs.

‘An extension of the Enhanced Eating experience will be an immersion into diverse cultures, flavours or traditions under one roof – the new leisure day out,’ explains Daniela Walker, Foresight editor and food expert at The Future Laboratory. Exemplified by FICO Eataly World in Bologna, Italy, dining will become part of a wider educational and sensorial experience.


: Conviviality Spaces

The Cooking Library, Hyundai Card, South Korea
Understanding the needs not only of different age groups but of diverse and hyper-connected local communities will be imperative for future leisure destinations

Future master planning and placemaking will radically advance out-of-town and inner-city leisure destinations by the mid-2020s, transforming them from soulless identikit spaces into attractive and intuitive multi-use centres for increasingly diverse groups of leisure customers.

The application of new technology, the evolution of local infrastructure and enhanced sensory surroundings will enrich future leisure destinations, turning them into engaging, flexible spaces that meet the changing expectations and requirements of regional UK communities.

Understanding the needs not only of different age groups but of diverse and hyper-connected local communities will be imperative for future leisure destinations, as the existing concept of large boxes on the edge of town featuring duplicate branded destinations becomes tired and uninspiring.

: Civic Assets 

Some 94% of visitors to public spaces undertake multiple activities while there, according to the Gensler Experience Index 2017, so the expectation already exists that leisure placemaking – accounting for hard features such as car parks and softer elements such as events programmes and temporary installations – must be fit for purpose.

‘Leisure placemaking is not just about design, it’s about community organisation and programming,’ says Fred Kent, founder of the Project for Public Spaces. ‘In the decade ahead, the shift will be away from organised, controlled leisure spaces to those where visitors define how the space is used, based on where they would be connecting with people, where they can feel comfortable, happy and safe.’

Underpinning the future of leisure placemaking will be the creation of Civic Assets – destinations that reflect, celebrate and support the surrounding community, such as The Commons in Bangkok, a leisure space that connects locals and expatriates through a roster of community leisure activities such as outdoor cookery and food-growing.

Gort Scott, Walthamstow. Photography by Dirk Lindner
Electric vehicle stock could reach 70m vehicles globally by 2025
International Energy Agency

: Hyper-connected Districts

By the mid-2020s, consumers will be seamlessly connected to the world at all times – a state of being that will drastically augment future leisure placemaking and local infrastructure

For example, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that electric vehicle stock could reach 70m vehicles globally by 2025– with the potential to revolutionise transport infrastructure. Charging points and EV parking will command prime positions in out-of-town leisure destinations, encouraging suburban consumers to opt for electric or hybrid cars.

Signalling this future, Warner Leisure Hotels has installed EV charging across its UK locations. But it’s not just about the journey. High-speed, secure internet will be a necessity in future leisure placemaking, creating Hyper-connected Districts that provide sufficient bandwidth for browsing and interconnectivity between a location, visitors and their devices.

: Leisure Lifestyles 2.0

Changing consumer mindsets and lifestyle choices will have a big impact on UK leisure placemaking in the 2020s, as future generations flow between regional cities, the suburbs and city centres in search of Conviviality Spaces.

As Project for Public Spaces’ Fred Kent explains: ‘People are much more attuned to where they want to be and how they want to live than they have been in the past because their expectations have been repressed by the restrictions of existing leisure in their community.’

Nielsen reports that more than half of Generation Z and Millennial consumers wish to live in the city, while 26% of both generations say they would like to live in the suburbs. Even as they embark on this new suburban life, however, their leisure expectations will remain informed by their past metropolitan lifestyles.

MET Studio’s Peter Karn suggests how future out-of-town leisure destinations should keep pace: ‘There should be a permanent leisure offer for all communities, with a rolling platform of interesting events that move with the trends and local demographic needs.’

 To explore the full Future of Leisure commissioned by LGIM Real Assets and produced by The Future Laboratory, click here.


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