Bally Total Fitness, for instance, announced a joint venture agreement with China Sports Industry Co., Ltd. (CSI), the largest publicly traded company related to sports and fitness in China, to expand Bally Total Fitness to Asia.

The first club opened last month and Bally will work with CSI in developing between 50 and 100 Bally branded clubs over the next five years throughout Asia.

“We are excited to partner with China Sports Industry, the country's leader in sports facilities,” said Lee Hillman, chairman and CEO of Bally Total Fitness. “With the Olympics being awarded to Beijing for 2008 and the World Trade Organization admitting China, this is a perfect time to introduce the Bally brand to the people of Asia. This is a tremendous move for us as we expand our brand globally and further build on our mission to establish Bally Total Fitness as today's leading health and fitness company.”

The joint venture includes Beijing, Shanghai and other coastal cities throughout China and will serve as a launching point for future development throughout all of Asia. In addition to China, Bally plans to expand to other Asian countries primarily through a franchise model, leveraging the Company's intellectual property and fitness expertise.

“Given its increasingly affluent consumer base and heightened anticipation as the host city for the 2008 Olympics, Beijing is a natural choice for Bally to serve as our company's flagship operations in China and springboard for our Asian expansion,” said John Wilson, who is directing Bally's expansion efforts in Asia.

Recently, Bally Total Fitness announced a joint venture with Holmes Place, the leading operator of premium health and fitness clubs in Europe, to expand the Bally brand in Western Europe and the Holmes Place brand to the U.S. In addition, Bally also opened its first Bally branded facility in Nassau, Bahamas through a franchise arrangement with Doctor's Hospital, the leading for-profit medical institution in the Caribbean region.

But Bally isn't alone, as Gold's Gym has also made a concerted effort to extend its brand throughout the world. During the last 18 months, Gold's has expanded its franchise operations into Asia, the Caribbean, Mexico, Egypt, Russia, Eastern Europe, Central and South America. The company's goal is to develop 1,000 gyms worldwide by the year 2005. Gold's presently has 623 gyms throughout the world.

Its latest move was made last month when it formed a master franchise development rights alliance with New Fitness Centers Inc. for expansion in Peru. New Fitness Centers is a pioneer for the Gold's Gym brand in Peru, presently running three successful Gold's franchises in Lima.

̴It's exciting to expand the fitness opportunity of Gold's Gym in Peru,” said Fabrizio Bali, owner and spokesperson of New Fitness Centers Inc. “The fitness industry continues to evolve around the world, and we are excited to be poised as leaders in this growth and evolution in our region. We have had tremendous success with our three Gold's Gyms in Lima, and we now look forward to developing gyms in other locations.”

Plans to develop a fourth gym in Los Olivos (a heavily populated district of Lima) are underway with an eye on developing gyms in the Peruvian Provinces of Trujillo, Arequipa and other key areas in the country in the near future.

“Gold's and New Fitness Centers Inc. will promote the brand by franchising Gold's Gym International throughout the region,” said Ben Amante, SVP of Franchising, Gold's Gym International. “Our Master Franchiser, Fabrizio Bali is a seasoned businessman with tremendous operational skills in the fitness industry. His vision for excellence and his passion for the industry make him an ideal leader for future franchisees in the region. Gold's Gym is pleased to engage in this strategic partnership.”