It has been 13 weeks since gyms across the UAE were forced to shut their doors to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Although gyms were permitted to welcome clients back – with strict restrictions in place – at the end of May, it seemed inevitable that some wouldn't reopen.
Facing months with no income from memberships, gyms turned to offering classes online for free, or for a fraction of their regular cost. But with running costs continuing to stay high for many, mounting bills have now proved too much for some.
Dubai Marina's TribeFit is 'closing for now' with options for members
When Dubai gyms reopened at the end of May, TribeFit put a message on Instagram, announcing that it would not be opening straight away.
"Following the government's announcement that gyms are allowed to open, we are taking time to ensure the healthy and safety protocols are met.
Members safety is our number one priority," the message read.
However, on Saturday, June 13, the TribeFit Members' Facebook page was updated with a letter that had been sent to customers.
"Unfortunately, we find ourselves in very difficult times due to the unexpected and extraordinary circumstances posed by Covid-19, the global pandemic," the post reads.
"We have tried all avenues to remain afloat in our existing premises, including restructuring and seeking relief from suppliers and most importantly, our existing landlord. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts we have not been able to secure critical support to enable us to ride out this crisis. It is very disappointing for us and indeed everyone, as we have been forced to make the painful decision to close our existing club."
Moving forward, the gym, which was located in Dubai Marina's Silverene Tower, has partnered with GymNation, so TribeFit's existing members can now use their facilities at gyms across the UAE.
TribeFit management say in the post that they plan to open a gym in Jumeirah Village Triangle by mid-October, "where the rent is much more affordable and in line with market conditions prevailing in this time of Covid-19".
Flywheel permanently closed
After eight years, Flywheel announced last month that it is closing its doors in Dubai permanently.
The company announced the news in an Instagram post, saying: "As the first boutique indoor cycling studio in Dubai, it is with a very heavy and sad heart that we have to say goodbye to Flywheel in Dubai.
"Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic, the ensuing lockdown, Flywheel US’s closure, and the limited support for SMEs, has left us with no choice but to permanently close our doors."
Flywheel US announced in August last year that it was closing a quarter of its cycling studios as it focused on in-home fitness.
The brainchild of New York fitness entrepreneur Ruth Zukerman, and a huge hit in the US, Flywheel hit the UAE in late 2012 and steadily garnered fans at two Dubai locations ever since. It was widely credited with spearheading the boutique cycling craze in the UAE, a sector that now includes the likes of Crank in Alserkal Avenue, Cadence Theory and Motion cycling, both in Downtown Dubai.
However, earlier this year the company closed its Gold and Diamond Park location and moved its bikes into The Warehouse Gym, signalling that the boutique fitness movement had hit a few road bumps.
Flywheel Dubai clients can contact the company for a refund for any outstanding credits.
Cure.fit closes its doors
But Flywheel isn't the only gym that's found it too costly to weather the coronavirus storm. Earlier this month, India’s largest fitness chain, Cure.fit, which had only recently opened in Dubai, closed its doors.
"Given the current pandemic and restrictions across the globe, our business is going through significant changes," a spokesman said.
"This comes at a time when the lockdown has affected our business and we see this continuing for extended periods. Even after reopening the centres, social distancing norms would persist and we feel this will continue to have an adverse impact on the overall business."
Cult.fit opened in Palm Strip Mall in Jumeirah in June 2019, and in Dubai Media City in August. The same month, Mind.fit, a yoga and meditation studio, opened at the Shorooq Community Centre in Mirdif.
They signed for nine more locations after that, including Dubai Marina, Bur Dubai, Al Barsha and The Dubai Mall, and aimed to open 50 gyms in the UAE.
The holistic online healthcare platform had raised about $250 million (Dh918.2m) over four funding rounds since it started in 2016 in India and had set aside $10m to invest in the UAE market, marking its first international expansion.
That would have resulted in it competing with Fitness First, which has about 35 outlets in the UAE, and other major players such as Gold’s Gym. The UAE’s fitness market was worth Dh2 billion in 2017 and is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 9.7 per cent to Dh3bn by 2022, according to a 2018 report by Ken Research.
The market is highly fragmented and boutique in the UAE, with more than 950 of the 1,040 fitness outlets independently run, rather than chains.
CrossFit GoldBox closed at beginning of lockdown
CrossFit GoldBox in Al Quoz was also forced to close permanently soon after the nationwide shutdown for gyms was announced.
The facility closed temporarily for two weeks in line with government regulations, and then on April 1, told its clients it would be closing for good.
"In these especially challenging times, it has unfortunately been decided that we shall not resume our business as usual," the company said in an Instagram post.
"Our decision to close has not been an easy one. We have truly enjoyed every moment of our journey together, members and staff alike."
The gym continued to offer online support and workouts until April 23.
An example of one of the many free fitness classes Dubai studios have been posting to IGTV, this one by Flywheel competitor Crank: