High prices putting off women from joining gyms in Saudi Arabia

The future share of the female population in Saudi Arabia’s fitness service revenue is expected to increase compared to that of the male population. (Supplied)
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Updated 14 December 2019

High prices putting off women from joining gyms in Saudi Arabia

  • A survey says the absence of adapted facilities is one of the main reasons behind this result

JEDDAH: Since Princess Reema bint Bandar championed the licensing of female-only gyms and sports clubs by the end of 2017, the number of female-only gyms have increased around the Kingdom. Nevertheless, there is a pervasive dissatisfaction among women with the prices of gym membership and the quality of their services, as well as their limited policies. 

This can be sensed just by searching “Female fitness clubs” on Twitter and reading people’s tweets. 

There are many complaints, with many agreeing that good gyms are too expensive while the cheaper ones are “a waste of money.” Hala Al-Owaidhi, from Jeddah, said: “Despite the high prices, the quality of services is poor.” 

Sarah Al-Asta from Riyadh listed several issues. “I joined one of the most popular gyms in Saudi Arabia that belongs to a global fitness brand. I have noticed a lack of maintenance, limited options, overcrowding, as well as a huge difference between male and female gym-memberships prices, men’s membership is way cheaper than women’s,” she said. 

Salha Al-Hazmi said: “Some gyms have strange restrictions, despite the high fees we pay; sometimes we are required to pay an extra fee to join the classes. Also, when the gym has several branches, our membership is limited to the branch where we were first registered, using the membership freely in other branches around the city means paying more money just for this specific advantage.” 

The price of membership to fitness clubs in the Kingdom range approximately from SR900 ($240) to SR4,000 per month. It varies from gym to gym, according to the package.  

After granting licenses for women-only gyms began, Princess Reema, the former head of the women’s section at the General Sports Authority, said that she was targeting the licensing of 500 medium-sized gyms by the middle of 2018, in addition to the previously existing 47 gyms. 

A survey by the Saudi General Authority for Statistics published in 2018, showed that around 91 percent of Saudi females did not practice any sporting activity (150 minutes and more per week). The survey covered 26,000 households selected across Saudi Arabia. 

According to the survey, the absence of adapted facilities is one of the main reasons behind this result: 21.7 percent of females said that a lack of facilities near their residence was why they did not exercise, compared to 9.6 percent of males. 

Furthermore, a recently revealed study by Saudi researcher Wafaa Al-Shega on the social and cultural factors affecting women’s physical activity in Saudi society showed that 40 percent of Saudi women were not engaging in sports due to the prohibitive prices of gym services fees.

This view presents an obstacle for Vision 2030’s social well-being goals, which aims to increase the ratio of individuals exercising at least once a week to 40 percent of the population.

Research published in 2018 by the Ken Research Company, titled “Saudi Arabia Fitness Services Market Outlook to 2022,” stated that the growing youth population in the country, along with changing laws for women, had benefitted the exercise market. The future share of the female population in Saudi Arabia’s fitness service revenue is expected to increase compared to that of the male population.

Approximately 70 percent of the individuals who attended gyms in 2017 were men. The study expected that by 2022, the proportion of female membership would reach a little less than 50 percent due to the rise in the number of women-only fitness centers.

Lawyer Nujood Qassim said that obtaining a license for a women-only gym was a complicated process in the past due to numerous regulatory requirements — as well as the difficulty of finding professional training staff — resulting in a substantial financial burden on institutions and affecting the pricing of gym’s services. 

“The limited number of women’s fitness clubs in the Kingdom have raised their fees in the past. However, the situation now is different — many permits have been granted to open more female fitness clubs. However, what we see now is that prices have not been affected much. Despite the growing number of these clubs, owners are upholding the old prices, perhaps because of the high demand.”

G20: India vows full support to Saudi Arabia

Updated 26 January 2020

G20: India vows full support to Saudi Arabia

On the joyous occasion of the 71st Republic Day of India, I would like to extend my warm greetings and felicitations to all Indian citizens and Persons of Indian Origin in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Republic Day is of very special significance to every Indian, wherever in the world they live. On Jan. 26, 1950, the Constitution of India came into effect, which declared India a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic.

The Constitution of India provides basic fundamental rights to Indian citizens and assures them of justice, equality and liberty, and endeavors to promote fraternity among them. The Constitution does not discriminate against anyone based on religion, caste, creed, gender or any other grounds.

Republic Day is also the day on which India’s first president, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, was sworn in as the constitutional head of the country, replacing the governor general appointed by the British monarchy. Two-and-a-half years after India gained its Independence on Aug. 15, 1947, it transitioned into one of the biggest democracies in the world, fulfilling the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi and thousands of freedom fighters who had shed their sweat and blood to secure freedom for our country.

Thus, the idea of India as an open, pluralistic democracy that supports a multireligious, multicultural, multi-ethnic, multilingual and secular society emerged. Underneath this diversity lies the continuity of Indian civilization and social structure, from the earliest times until the present.

The idea of India as an “epitome of the world” has been fascinating people since ancient times. Numerous inspiring accounts of visiting India were given by world travelers such as Fahien, Hiuen Tsang, Ibn Batuta, Alberuni, Ferishta, Vasco da Gama, Marco Polo and several others.

Renowned American philosopher Will Durant described India as “the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe’s languages.” German Indologist Max Muller called India “the country most richly endowed with all the wealth, power and beauty that nature can bestow.”

In a modern context, India advocates a democratic and rules-based international order that emphasizes the equality of all nations, irrespective of size, population and military might. India adopts a consultative and law-abiding approach as its geopolitical role in the regional and global arena is increasingly recognized.

India’s commitment to transparency and market principles in its economic decisions, and its steadfast will to ensure that its economy is open and shares its resources and markets with its global partners, including the Gulf nations, makes it a favored economic partner for countries around the globe.

The numerous measures undertaken by the government to improve the ease of doing business — including the slashing of corporate tax rates, increasing foreign direct-investment limits in a range of sectors, and cutting red tape in decision-making — have, among other things, helped India climb to the 63rd spot in the World Bank’s rankings based on ease of doing business during 2020. 

In addition, India has made significant progress to achieve 52nd rank in WIPO’s Global Innovation Index (GII) 2019 and 54th rank in Bloomberg Innovation Index 2020 which implies that the culture of innovation is taking center stage in India. 

India’s foreign exchange reserves rose by $64 billion in 2019 to touch a record $457.5 billion. India is self-sufficient in food grains with an output of nearly 284 metric tons last year. This year we expect to grow more food and take the total output to 291 mt, including 116 metric tons of rice and 100 metric tons of wheat. Despite a slight slump in India’s economy last year, the future looks promising. The IMF has projected that India’s GDP would grow at the rate of 5.8 percent in 2020 and rise to 6.5 percent by 2021, keeping India on course for a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25.

On the foreign policy front, India advocates a democratic and rules-based international order that emphasizes the equality of all nations, irrespective of size, population and military might. India is in favor of comprehensive reforms of the UN Security Council and its expansion to make it more representative, effective and responsive to the geopolitical realities of the 21st century.

India’s deep commitment to the Indo-Pacific region based on our vision of SAGAR — Security and Growth for All in the Region — and its consultative and law-abiding approach on matters of global importance is widely recognized and appreciated. India continues to have comprehensive cooperation with the GCC, IORA, ASEAN and the African countries among others.

India’s bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia in modern times date back to 1947, when diplomatic relations were established between the two countries immediately after India gained independence. The bilateral relationship has evolved progressively into a multifaceted and mutually beneficial strategic partnership.

The signing of an agreement between the two countries, during an official visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Kingdom in October 2019, to form a Strategic Partnership Council marks a new era in Indo-Saudi relations.

The leadership of both countries is keen to strengthen and expand the gamut of bilateral relations in diverse fields such as trade, investments and economic cooperation, infrastructure, security and defense cooperation, energy security, food security, health care, entertainment, civil aviation, tourism and culture, along with people-to-people engagement.

India has a robust trade and economic relationship with Saudi Arabia, which is India’s fourth-largest trading partner. Bilateral trade is worth $34 billion, which includes a non-oil component of $10 billion. Several prestigious Indian companies operate in the Kingdom and are participating in the development process underway in the country under its Vision 2030 program.

Saudi Arabia plays a significant role in ensuring India’s energy security by meeting its long-term energy requirements, supplying 18 percent of its crude oil and 30 percent of its liquid petroleum gas needs.

The Kingdom’s plans to increase its footprint in India’s downstream sector — including a partnership that proposes to create world’s largest oil refinery, taking equity stakes in existing refineries, and its decision to participate in India’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves — reflect the keen desire of both countries to transform bilateral cooperation in the hydrocarbons sector into a larger strategic partnership based on complementarities and interdependence.

For its part, India is keen to contribute to the food security requirements of the Kingdom. Numerous initiatives are being explored in the fields of agriculture and food technologies. Greater collaboration in the areas of education, knowledge-based Industries, innovative technologies, and capacity building are being explored.

India has promised its full support to help ensure Saudi Arabia’s presidency of the G20 is a great success. Nearly 150 delegations from India, including several Cabinet ministers, are expected to visit the Kingdom this year and engage with their Saudi and other international counterparts on a range of issues, including finance, infrastructure, health care, climate change, energy sustainability and food security.

I would be failing in my duty if I did not acknowledge the enormous contribution made by the Indian professionals and skilled workers to the economic development of the Saudi Arabia, and for promoting greater understanding between the people of the two countries.

I would like to avail of this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their strong support in elevating the bilateral relations between our countries into a strategic partnership, and for ensuring the well-being of the 2.6 million Indian nationals who live in the Kingdom.

Long live the India-Saudi Relationship.

• Dr. Ausaf Sayeed is the Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia.