Dubai holiday camps spring into life as children seek break from remote learning

After studying at home for months, children are turning to camps for exercise and activities

Spring camps in Dubai have reported being busier than ever as children seek out fun activities after months of remote learning.

Founders of camps said slots for their spring sessions - which got under way this week - sold out within days.

Some organisers were unable to match demands as they reduced capacities to follow safety protocols.

Owners said parents and children had turned to spring camps after sporting activities at schools were limited due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Since the pandemic started, our camps have proven to be busier than ever before

Adam Felix, founder of Empire Sports, said two years ago his spring football camp had only 30 participants.

But this number had grown to close to 70 children for the latest camp.

“This year has been our busiest camp and a lot of that is because of the restrictions children are having in school,” said Mr Felix, who is from the UK.

“Their extracurricular activities have been quite limited and that has reflected on our numbers.

“Earlier they were doing more team sports at school, but now they are coming to us for their exercise.”

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 29 MARCH 2021. Spring camps are super-busy this year. Children playing and learning at the spring camp at Oli Oli in Dubai. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Anam Rizvi. Section: National.

Mr Felix said he first noticed the rise in demand last Christmas.

Empire Sports run camps at an indoor-facility on Umm Suqeim Road for children aged four to 18.

Mr Felix has run camps in the UAE for four years, and said this spring had been his busiest ever.

“Since the pandemic started, our camps have proven to be busier than ever before," he said.

Mr Felix said he had to hire additional part-time staff in order to meet Covid-19 restrictions which stated one coach was required per 10 children.

“Everyone had to register online and everything had to be sanitised after every session including the balls and the whole place," he said.

Each group remains within their bubble with their coach but that has proven difficult.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 29 MARCH 2021. Spring camps are super-busy this year. Children playing and learning at the spring camp at Oli Oli in Dubai. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Anam Rizvi. Section: National.

Mr Felix said getting four-year-olds to stay within a bubble was challenging.

“Our overheads are higher as we have to pay for more staff and more sanitisation of equipment. Because the market is saturated, we cannot increase our prices. We don’t profit as much," he said.

“Our prices have stayed the same but many competitors reduced prices to recover business they lost in the last year."

Parents pay Dh650 for a week's camp, but there are sibling discounts.

OliOli, the interactive children’s play museum in Dubai, sold out places at their spring camp within days of launching.

"Compared to past years we have seen a surge in popularity and in demand," Lalit Ramchandani, marketing director at OliOli, said:

He said the trend started in December when they launched their winter camp.

“This was the first time that we were booked 80 per cent in the first three days and in another two days we were fully sold out. That had never happened," said Mr Ramchandani.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 29 MARCH 2021. Spring camps are super-busy this year. Children playing and learning at the spring camp at Oli Oli in Dubai. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Anam Rizvi. Section: National.

He said the demand could be because people had not travelled.

“When we opened spring camp we were 80 per cent booked in 24 hours and completely sold out in two to two-and-a-half days.

“Children are not getting out as much. While schools have started, there is still this built up energy.

“Unfortunately, we can’t meet the kind of demand that we face because we also run other programmes.

“We have a waiting list that we cannot fulfill as we want to make sure the distancing is right.”

OliOli has 60 children at their spring camp this year. The two-week long camp commenced on Sunday.

Children aged between four to nine could attend the camp.

The camp is priced at Dh1,099 for five days, but is available at Dh999 for an early discount, and further sibling discounts are offered.

Under the theme Designer’s Den, children would come together to participate in designing textiles, art, and games.

Alison Cook, who operates Supkids UAE, said their spring camp also had a waiting list.

Children were excited to learn paddle boarding, kayaking, and dragon boating during the camp.

"I have a list of children waiting to come on to the camp. But, we follow all the guidelines and the camp got booked very quickly," said Ms Cook.

"I have had the best year (business-wise) because everyone wanted to get active."

She said many families had been unable to travel, and parents wanted their children to spend time outdoors, especially in the water as it was socially distanced and safer.

Ms Cook capped the number of participants at her camp at 25. Children between the ages four to 15 would participate at the camp.

Returning to school during a pandemic

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