Armah Sports’ first luxury health club, Optimo, has opened in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It is a new concept, combining high-end hotel design with top-notch fitness facilities. Two more sites will open in the next three to six months.
Optimo is led by Armah Sports co-founder and CEO Fahad Alhagbani, who launched the Fitness Time chain in Saudi Arabia in 2007. By 2018, it had grown to 150 clubs employing around 3,500 staff. After going public for 700 million euros ($724), Alhagbani set off to found Armah Sports with his family in January 2019 and set about developing Optimo and sister brand B_Fit.
The services and classes offered by Optimo include strength and cardio areas, personal training, indoor cycling, pilates and yoga studios (for women only), a boxing area, a relaxation space, functional training, a ‘freestyle athletics (including an indoor track) and a swimming pool. Spa facilities include sauna, steam room, whirlpool chair, nail spa (women) and barbers (men). Equipment suppliers include Technogym, Life Fitness and Reaxing.
In terms of how Optimo measures up against other high-end gym offerings around the world, Alhagbani said HCM extension the company has taken a “hotel-ic approach” with company branding to provide a luxury hotel environment, combined with comprehensive fitness services.
“We know people sometimes like hotel gyms for the luxury, ambiance and privacy aspects, but the main problem with this particular type of gym is the lack of equipment, space and services,” he said. “So, we took the opposite approach, presenting a spacious hotel gym within a smart technology environment.”
The company has also signed an exclusive deal with Minderful in the UK to promote mental health in Saudi Arabia. “We want to pioneer by leading this initiative, while awareness of mental health in Saudi Arabia is very low, we are confident that through this partnership it will impact the lives of our members and employees to help them on their journey to wellbeing. We believe both mental and physical fitness are the holistic approach to a better life.”
Alhagbani will expand Optimo into Saudi Arabia, but not outside the country’s borders. Together with B_fit, he aims to open 30-35 clubs in the coming years.
“We are seeing the transformation Saudi Arabia is going through, it is one of the fastest growing economies in 2022,” Alhagbani said. “We consider ourselves part of Vision 2030 the strategy for Saudi Arabia that our Crown Prince announced a few years ago. We won’t grow in other markets simply because we want to focus on the core of our business model, which is the member experience.
“It is important to be close to the clubs on a daily basis if you want to ensure that quality is delivered every day with the same expectations, it is very similar to a chef running his own restaurant, if you go outside the confines it would be difficult to keep it touch secret.
B_fit is a premium level club concept of which there are seven in operation between Riyadh and Jeddah, with two more clubs slated to open in the coming year. The B_fit brand focuses on innovative technology-driven solutions, which include club access via facial recognition and is the first health club in the world to use Amazon Alexa in its operations, through which members can book classes and check biographies and voice command coaches schedules – read more about this in the 1/2023 issue of Fit Tech magazine.
Alhagbani is also launching 1Rebel Saudi with business partner Nathan Clute as part of a franchise deal with 1Rebel co-founders James Balfour and Giles Dean. “We have rights to 1Rebel in seven markets in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait,” Alhagbani confirmed in an exclusive interview with HCM extension last year.
“1Rebel Saudi is a different story outside the family business,” said Alhagbani. “I did it in Saudi with my partner Nathan Clute for different reasons, mainly for friendship, fun and passion. Since opening both locations nearly two years ago, we have made a significant impact on the market, the feedback is always great and the members enjoy themselves as they train in one of the best entertainment environments in the region.”
“Last year we won the Mondo*dr award (the international award for technology and entertainment) for the lighting and sound systems we installed in both clubs, which created a unique atmosphere that a fitness club never seen before.”
“We are inspiring many young Saudis to be active through 1Rebel Saudi where they can have fun, socialise, train hard and get a healthy smoothie on the way out.”
Going forward, Alhagbani plans to introduce a third brand in Saudi Arabia in the form of a new budget concept. “We dream of making Saudi Arabia a hub for innovation in the fitness sphere,” she said. “This is our mission.”
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