Pandemic teaches Kuwait’s fitness industry a healthy business lesson

Pandemic teaches Kuwait’s fitness industry a healthy business lesson
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Fitness centers in Kuwait have adopted novel business approaches in the wake of stringent virus curbs, including renting out equipment. Supplied
Pandemic teaches Kuwait’s fitness industry a healthy business lesson
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Fitness centers in Kuwait have adopted novel business approaches in the wake of stringent virus curbs, including renting out equipment. Supplied
Pandemic teaches Kuwait’s fitness industry a healthy business lesson
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Fitness centers in Kuwait have adopted novel business approaches in the wake of stringent virus curbs, including renting out equipment. Supplied
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Updated 05 December 2020

Pandemic teaches Kuwait’s fitness industry a healthy business lesson

Pandemic teaches Kuwait’s fitness industry a healthy business lesson
  • Gyms and fitness clubs in Kuwait were forced to shut down in mid-March and not allowed to resume until the end of August
  • To survive the pandemic, club owners were forced to innovate: renting out equipment and moving training sessions online

KUWAIT: The COVID-19 outbreak has had devastating effects on almost all aspects of business in the region, and the gym and fitness sectors are no exception. In response to this unprecedented challenge, some operators have come up with innovative ways to stay afloat and continue serving their customers.

Before the virus hit, the fitness market in Kuwait had achieved a steady annual growth rate of around 6 percent between 2012 and 2017. This expansion was fueled by an increasing expatriate population, widespread obesity, and a rise in health consciousness that has led to a shift in lifestyle. The growth rate was expected to hit around 10 percent in 2022, based on a report by Research And Markets.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our business greatly over the past six months and will continue to do so until people feel safe to return to the normality of life,” said Anthony Brown, operations manager at Elite Fitness, a facility in Kuwait that offers personal training, group fitness classes and aerial yoga, among other fitness activities.

Gyms and fitness clubs in Kuwait were forced to shut down in mid-March. As part of the government’s reopening plan, the sector was not allowed to resume operations until the end of August with certain restrictions in place to limit the spread of the disease among gym-goers.

“You put people together in a closed environment, particularly where they engage in strenuous activity that may involve them producing droplets, heavy breathing, shouting, whatever else,” Dr. Mike Ryan, an epidemiologist and the executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, said in a Q&A session on COVID-19.

With six full months of complete business shutdown, Elite Fitness — as other fitness businesses in Kuwait — had to innovate to remain afloat and ensure their staff of almost 70 people can survive.

“We immediately went online, offering classes and personal training sessions to be conducted through apps such as Zoom and Instagram,” Brown said.

According to him, that was not enough because a gym’s main source of revenue is people walking through the door and buying a membership. Thus, Elite Fitness and some of its peers decided to move the gym to customers’ homes.

“We are very fortunate in that we have a huge stockpile of equipment, so we were able to do this without compromising any equipment which we use in our facilities on a day-to-day basis,” Brown said.

IN NUMBER

6% Annual growth rate of Kuwait’s fitness sector in 2012-2017.

Over this period, the maintenance workers, receptionists and management team successfully rented out various gym equipment to over 100 customers. Most of the gear was delivered and unloaded in homes to ensure it arrived safely and in proper working order.

“People are now in the habit of (exercising) at home; they have seen the ease with which it can be done and the time and money they can potentially save,” Brown said.

While this shift might not be in the best financial interest of the gym industry, adapting to the new reality has helped Elite Fitness deal partly with the devastation the pandemic has caused.

Furthermore, current restrictions on the number of people allowed into fitness facilities increase the burden on the industry as it tries to recover. “We have over 3,500 square meters (of space). For our business to be functioning and profitable, we need to keep it busy,” Brown said.

Before COVID-19, Elite Fitness delivered over 200 sessions of personal training daily. Limits on how often members can come to the gym and the fact that classes can no longer be back to back to allow for cleaning have significantly impacted the number of training sessions the company can currently offer.

Brown, however, is not worried about the long-term prospects of his industry. “I think, with time, more people will start coming back. Gyms in Kuwait are very social and give people an outlet to interact, so inevitably they will again want to do this,” he said.

“As the market begins to recover and the population starts to regain confidence in getting out and (being) social, the industry will again start to boom, as it has over the past 10-15 years.”

_________________________

ª This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.

 


Western envoys met with Sudan’s PM in his residence

Western envoys met with Sudan’s PM in his residence
Updated 3 sec ago

Western envoys met with Sudan’s PM in his residence

Western envoys met with Sudan’s PM in his residence
CAIRO: Envoys from France, Germany, Norway, the UK, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations met with Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok at his residence, the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission Sudan (UNITAMS) wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. The mission added that the envoys found Hamdok in good health.

US urges Iran to show ‘good faith’ in talks resumption

US urges Iran to show ‘good faith’ in talks resumption
Updated 20 min 24 sec ago

US urges Iran to show ‘good faith’ in talks resumption

US urges Iran to show ‘good faith’ in talks resumption
  • Iran's negotiator said after talks with EU mediators in Brussels that Tehran had agreed to resume talks
  • “This window will not remain open forever as Iran continues to take provocative nuclear steps”: State Department

WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday urged Iran to show “good faith” and quickly revive a nuclear deal after the clerical state indicated it would return to negotiations in Vienna next month.
Iran's nuclear negotiator said after talks with European Union mediators in Brussels that Tehran had agreed to resume talks in Vienna next month. These discussions had been on hiatus since June.
"We are prepared to return to Vienna, and we believe that it remains possible to quickly reach and implement an understanding on return to mutual full compliance" with the 2015 nuclear deal, a State Department spokesperson said.
The talks should focus on "closing the small number of issues that remained outstanding at the end of the sixth round of talks in June," he said.
"As we have also been clear, this window will not remain open forever as Iran continues to take provocative nuclear steps, so we hope that they come to Vienna to negotiate quickly and in good faith."
President Joe Biden has repeatedly offered to return to the nuclear accord reached in 2015 but his administration has voiced growing frustration at the prolonged delay, which comes as a new hardline government gets settled in Tehran.
Then president Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018 and imposed sweeping sanctions, leading Iran to step up contested nuclear work in protest.


Arab coalition says 105 rebels killed in latest Yemen strikes

Arab coalition says 105 rebels killed in latest Yemen strikes
Updated 27 October 2021

Arab coalition says 105 rebels killed in latest Yemen strikes

Arab coalition says 105 rebels killed in latest Yemen strikes
  • EU delegation in Aden to support government, implementation of Riyadh Agreement
  • Coalition has claimed the deaths of 2,000 Houthis around Marib in strikes it has reported since Oct. 11

AL-MUKALLA: The Arab coalition said on Wednesday it killed 105 Houthi rebels in airstrikes around Yemen’s strategic city of Marib.

The coalition, supporting the internationally recognized government, has claimed the deaths of 2,000 Houthis around Marib in strikes it has reported almost daily since Oct. 11.

“Thirteen military vehicles were destroyed and 105” insurgents were killed in strikes in the past 24 hours, the coalition said, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

The latest bombing was carried out in Al-Jawba, about 50 km south of Marib, and Al-Kassara, 30 km to the northwest.

Marib, capital of the oil-rich province of the same name, is the internationally recognized government’s last bastion in northern Yemen.

The UN Security Council last week called for “de-escalation” in Yemen, in a unanimously adopted statement to counter “the growing risk of large-scale famine” in the country.

Meanwhile, a group of EU diplomats visiting the port city of Aden, the interim capital of Yemen, has expressed support for the internationally recognized government of Yemen, hailed its return to Aden, and called upon the country’s political forces to accelerate the full implementation of the Saudi-brokered Riyadh Agreement. 

The EU delegation also urged the Iran-backed Houthis to end their deadly offensive in the central province of Marib and engage with peace efforts to end the war in Yemen.

The delegation includes the deputy head of the EU mission in Yemen, Marion Lalisse, French Ambassador Jean-Marie Safa, German Ambassador Hubert Jaeger, Dutch Ambassador Peter-Derrek Hof, and Swedish Envoy for Yemen Peter Semneby. 

“The EU ambassadors welcome the return of the Yemen government to Aden, express full support for the government and call for the full implementation of the Riyadh agreement,” the mission said in a statement.

The EU delegation touched down in Aden airport on Tuesday and then headed to the presidential palace for a meeting with Yemen’s Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Saeed. 

The official news agency SABA reported that the prime minister told the EU envoys that the Houthis are spoiling efforts to end the war by aggressively attacking internally displaced people in Marib and civilian targets in Saudi Arabia. 

He called for the Houthis and their supporters in Iran to be punished for undermining peace and security in Yemen. 

“The terrorist behavior of the Houthis, their war crimes against civilians and IDPs in Marib, and the attack on civilian properties in Saudi Arabia test the international community,” Saeed said. 

“Peace process should be based on effective pressure and sanctions on the Houthis and their sponsors in Tehran,” the premier said, urging international donors to expand their assistance to Yemen to include supporting the country’s exacerbating economic meltdown. 

Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Awadh bin Mubarak, who also met the delegation, said that the Europeans discussed offering assistance to the economy and to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis. 

“There is great European interest in discussing ways to support the Yemeni government, especially in the economic field,” Bin Mubarak said. 

The Dutch ambassador to Yemen said they held an “excellent” meeting with the government and discussed ways to help address the devaluation of the riyal, fight corruption and tackle other economic challenges. 

“Excellent meeting today with @Yemen_PM in Aden, expressing EU support for the Government of Yemen and discussing the economic challenges including the exchange rate, inflation, boosting revenues, the needed government reforms and the fight against corruption,” Peter Derrek Hof said on Twitter.

During a meeting with the EU delegation on Wednesday, Aden Gov. Ahmed Hamid Lamlis thanked the Europeans for visiting Aden, stressing that the visit carries a message that the city is safe and ready to receive international delegations. 

The Europeans also discussed the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement and supporting the government to smoothly resume its duties in Aden with the leader of the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council Aidarous Al-Zubaidi.

Yemeni officials and experts believe that the EU mission visit to Aden would spur the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement, help the government function effectively in Aden and convince many international diplomats to visit the city. 

“This is an indication that Aden is safe. The presence of the Europeans in Aden mounts pressure on parties to put into place the Riyadh Agreement and end hostilities in the city,” Najeeb Ghallab, undersecretary at Yemen’s Information Ministry and a political analyst, told Arab News.


Israel advances plans for more than 3,000 settler homes

Israel advances plans for more than 3,000 settler homes
Updated 27 October 2021

Israel advances plans for more than 3,000 settler homes

Israel advances plans for more than 3,000 settler homes
  • The Civil Administration’s high planning committee gave the final green light to 1,800 homes and initial approval for another 1,344
  • About 475,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements in the West Bank, which are considered illegal under international law

JERUSALEM: Israel advanced plans for building more than 3,000 settler homes in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, a military spokesman said, a day after the US forcefully criticized such construction.
The Civil Administration’s high planning committee gave the final green light to 1,800 homes and initial approval for another 1,344, a spokesman for the military body that oversees civilian matters in the Palestinian territories told AFP.
The approvals came a day after the United States criticized Israel for its policy of building settlements, with President Joe Biden’s administration saying it “strongly” opposed new construction on the West Bank.
His administration’s position on the matter stands in stark contrast to that of his predecessor Donald Trump, whose presidency saw the US offer a green light to Israel’s activity on occupied Palestinian land.
The homes approved on Wednesday were spread across the West Bank, from the suburbs of Jerusalem to new neighborhoods of settlements deep inside the territory.
Israel’s housing ministry had separately on Sunday published tenders to build 1,355 new homes in the West Bank.
About 475,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements in the West Bank, which are considered illegal under international law, on land Palestinians claim as part of their future state.
Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem has continued under every Israeli government since 1967.


World Bank suspends aid to Sudan after military coup

World Bank suspends aid to Sudan after military coup
Updated 27 October 2021

World Bank suspends aid to Sudan after military coup

World Bank suspends aid to Sudan after military coup
  • It is the latest blow to the impoverished African nation
  • The military on Monday seized Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and briefly detained him in a coup

WASHINGTON: The World Bank said Wednesday it has suspended aid to Sudan following the military takeover that deposed the prime minister.
“I am greatly concerned by recent events in Sudan, and I fear the dramatic impact this can have on the country’s social and economic recovery and development,” World Bank President David Malpass said in a statement.
It was the latest blow to the impoverished African nation that had just won its way back into good standing with major Washington-based development lenders after years in the wilderness.
The military on Monday seized Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and briefly detained him in the coup that came just over two years into a precarious power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilians after the army ousted longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir in April 2019.
The World Bank “paused disbursements in all of its operations in Sudan on Monday and it has stopped processing any new operations as we closely monitor and assess the situation,” Malpass said.
The United States also suspended aid to the country.
“We hope that peace and the integrity of the transition process will be restored, so that Sudan can restart its path of economic development and can take its rightful place in the international financial community,” Malpass said.
Sudan had been emerging from decades of stringent US sanctions after Washington removed the country from its state sponsor of terrorism blacklist in December 2020, eliminating a major hurdle to much-needed aid and financial investment.
The World Bank and IMF in June granted Sudan debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, cutting the nation’s debt in half to about $28 billion, and the institutions have offered additional help if economic reforms continue.