Saudi-based Armah Sports has launched B_fit, the first of its three new health club concepts for the Middle East market, which will be rolled out across the region and beyond. The other brands – high-end offering Optimo and budget brand Lift will follow on in 2022.
The first B_fit club is in Jeddah and will operate as a full-service ‘smart club’, featuring a wide range of innovative tech solutions which integrate with a high-end gym offering.
CEO, Fahad Alhagbani tells HCM the company has placed tech at the heart of the B–fit model, saying: “Today we’re half tech company and half fitness company, with the Metaverse on the horizon, there are no limits to the experiences we will be able to create for our members.
“We built the best technology infrastructure before we started opening our new clubs,” he says. “Our main focus has been selecting the best solutions in each area – such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and CRM software, access control, mobile apps, voice communication and so on, and then integrating them together.”
Workout facilities at the 3,750sq m B_fit club include a large gym floor with kit by Technogym and Life Fitness, cardio zone, performance cardio zone, personal training hubs, athlete factory area, six exercise studios catering for functional training, spinning, yoga, pilates, HIIT, and boxing.
There’s also a 25m pool, an indoor running track, a large co-working space, innovation lab, smoothy bar and retail area.
The interior design and lighting have been recognised by the lighting industry for excellence and Alhagbani says the fit-out represents the “evolution of fitness in the industry in the region” and something that has been achieved by “working with some of the best interior designers and lighting consultants in the world.”
When it comes to tech, B_fit offers members an array of solutions, starting with access to the club, which is implemented through touchless facial recognition.
B_fit is also the first health club in the world to utilise Amazon Alexa technology in its operations, with members being able to book classes and check trainers’ bios and schedules by talking to Alexa.
Other smart tech solutions include the use of VR and AR which – according Alhagbani – creates “an integrated and seamless digital member experience.
“Virtual reality experiences are there for members and visitors to try in our Innovation Lab, where we demonstrate the future trends to educate our young Saudi generation about the future and gamification,” he told HCM. “We’re adopting VR, AR and the Internet of Things as we grow,” he says.
Members’ wristbands are designed to be a lifestyle accessory and enable them to access the club, buy a smoothie or an item from the shop, control their locker, enquire about their locker number – if forgotten – through a locker control panel and get access to classes through check-in portals which are located next to studio doors.
“We’ve created a smart building which runs under the control of a Building Management System through a smart tablet controlled by our club manager,” says Alhagbani, “this controls the lighting, the aircon and many other elements with just one touch.
“We’re in the final stages of having our LEED Certificate issued to confirm our green building rating and we’re running a paperless and single-use plastic-free environment, with all internal communications happening digitally and being connected through the smart platform.
“When we launched Armah Sports Company in 2019 we saw the rapid growth of technology in our lives and embraced it as an essential element of our business model,” says Alhagbani, “we noticed a dramatic shift in the industry as a result of the pandemic, but we didn’t change our strategy, because our concept was already tech- and digitally-enabled and resilient to change.”
“We’re proud to present our B_fit model as a smart club to the world, a place that represents our knowledge, creativity, passion, dreams, research, ambition and teamwork,” says Alhagbani. “Our mission is to make Saudi a hub for innovation in the region for the fitness industry – we believe the days of the traditional fitness club are gone, it’s time for the new generation of fitness clubs – the clubs of the future.”
Alhagbani said the company plans to open 11 B_fit smart clubs and three Optimo clubs in the next 18 months, with the first Optimo opening early in 2022.
Optimino will have a hotel vibe, sharing much of the same tech infrastructure as B_FIT, but with interior, facilities and equipment “at another level”.
Armah Sports has also signed a deal to roll out 1Rebel clubs in the Middle East.
• To read HCM’s exclusive interview with Fahad Alhagbani on Armah Sports’ plans, go to: HCMmag.com/alhagbani