The first luxury health club from Armah Sports, Optimo, has opened in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It is new concept, combining high-end hotel design with upscale fitness facilities. Two further 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 reached 150 clubs which employed around 3,500 staff. After going public with a value of €700m (US$724), Alhagbani left to establish Armah Sports with his family in January 2019 and started to develop Optimo and sister brand B_Fit.
Amenities and classes on offer at Optimo include strength and cardio areas, personal training, indoor cycling, pilates and yoga studios (women only), a boxing area, a relaxation space, functional training, a freestyle athletics training zone (including an indoor track) and a swimming pool. Spa facilities include a sauna, steamroom, hydro massage chair, nail spa (women) and barbers (men). Equipment providers include Technogym, Life Fitness and Reaxing.
In terms of how Optimo measures against other high-end gym offerings around the world, Alhagbani told HCM the company took a “hotel-ic approach” with the branding company to provide a luxury hotel environment, combined with fully-fledged fitness services.
“We know people sometimes like hotel gyms because of the luxury, ambience and privacy aspects but the main problem of this particular type of gym is lack of equipment, space and services,” he said. “So, we took the opposite approach where we present a spacious fitness facility in a hotel context within a smart tech environment.”
The company has also signed an exclusive agreement with Minderful in the UK to promote mental health in Saudi. “We want to be pioneers by driving this initiative, while the mental health awareness in Saudi is very low, we are confident through this partnership to impact our members and employees’ lives to help them in their wellness journey. We believe that both mental fitness and physical fitness are the holistic approach towards better living.”
Alhagbani will expand Optimo in Saudi, but not outside of the country’s borders. Along with B_fit, he aims to open 30-35 clubs over the next few years.
“We are witnessing the transformation that Saudi is going through, it’s one of the fastest growing economies in 2022,” said Alhagbani. “We consider ourselves part of Vision 2030 the strategy for Saudi Arabia that our Crown Prince announced a few years ago. We will not grow to other markets simply because we want to focus on the core of our business model, which is the member’s experience.
“It’s important to be close to the clubs daily if you want to ensure quality is being delivered every day at the same expectation, it’s very similar to a chef running his own restaurant, if it goes out of boundaries it would be challenging to maintain that secret touch.”
B_fit is a premium-level club concept of which there are seven in operation between Riyadh and Jeddah, with two further clubs planned to open in the next year. The B_fit brand focuses on innovative tech-based solutions, which include club entry by facial recognition and being the first health club in the world to use Amazon Alexa in its operations, through which members can book classes and check trainers’ bios and schedules by voice command – read more about this in issue 1/2023 of Fit Tech magazine.
Alhagbani is also rolling out 1Rebel Saudi with business partner Nathan Clute as part of a franchise agreement with 1Rebel’s co-founders James Balfour and Giles Dean. “We have the 1Rebel rights to seven markets in the Middle East: Saudi, UAE, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait,” Alhagbani confirmed in an exclusive interview with HCM last year.
“1Rebel Saudi is a different story which falls outside of 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 the opening of both locations almost two years ago we have created a significant impact in the market, the feedback is always great and members are having fun while working out in one of the best entertaining environments in the region.”
“We won the Mondo*dr award (the international award for technology and entertainment) last year for the light and sound systems we set up in both clubs, which created a unique atmosphere that a fitness club hadn’t seen before.”
“We’re driving a lot of young Saudi guys to be active through 1Rebel Saudi where they can have fun, socialise, train hard and grab a healthy smoothie on the way out.”
In the future, Alhagbani is planning to introduce a third brand in Saudi Arabia in the form of a new budget concept. “We dream of making Saudi a hub for innovation in the fitness sphere,” he said. “That’s our mission.”