Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 March 2018

The pros and cons of fitness-pass packages

The opportunities and restrictions of three new flexible fitness memberships available in Dubai.

Fitness-pass packages include a range of activities, from yoga and Zumba to cycling and parkour. Courtesy GuavaPass
Fitness-pass packages include a range of activities, from yoga and Zumba to cycling and parkour. Courtesy GuavaPass

Fitness-pass packages are taking the global gym industry by storm, and the fad is becoming increasingly popular in the UAE. Dubai-based companies GuavaPass, FittPass and Core Direction are catering to fitness enthusiasts by offering flexible packages allowing them to visit multiple gyms and fitness facilities, all with the one membership. The packages are appealing to those who are unable to commit to regular gym memberships, or are seeking a variety of classes with a single pass.

The style of membership is similar to ClassPass, a company that started out in New York City, and now operates in major cities across the United States, and in London, Toronto, Vancouver, Sydney and Melbourne. The New York Times highlighted the downside of ClassPass-style initiatives, which they said often bring bigger crowds and less intense workouts, along with members who may not take the classes as seriously as regular, committed clients do. Still, the trend is gaining popularity here and it’s giving residents a greater variety of fitness options while also helping to build awareness for smaller gyms and studios.

Racki Orlina, studio administrator at Dubai’s Café de la Danse, which has partnered with both GuavaPass and FittPass, says the studio’s association with these organisations has helped boost business, and that many clients are drawn in because they hold these passes.

We look at the pros and cons.


The lowdown: GuavaPass was founded in Singapore, and now has a strong presence in Australia, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Shanghai, with further expansion plans in the works. It has been up and running for less than two months in Dubai, and aims to “create a community where people can make friends, find support and get advice about living a more health-conscious life”, according to co-founder Jeffrey Liu.

The sign-up process is straightforward, and the course schedule can be viewed before purchasing your membership. After creating an account online and entering your billing information, you can start booking classes. Your card will automatically be charged after each 30-day cycle to renew your membership. An average of 100 to 120 classes are on offer each day, except on Fridays, when there are only about 50 classes available.

GuavaPass member Amna Husain is happy with the variety of classes on offer during weekday evenings, but hopes weekend options will increase. “Since I work full-time during the week, I’d like to go to classes on the weekend, but I’ve noticed that the selection on Fridays tends to be limited,” she says.

Classes are available in most areas of Dubai, from Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Lakes Towers and Tecom to Al Quoz, Umm Suqeim, Business Bay and the World Trade Centre. While Dubai is currently the only emirate with GuavaPass, there are plans to expand into Abu Dhabi later this year.

Activities covered in the membership include cycling, circuit training, CrossFit, personal training, parkour, martial arts, pole dancing, Zumba, gymnastics, barre, yoga, Pilates and meditation, along with classes for soon-to-be or new mothers. Booking and browsing classes is made easy with the newly launched GuavaPass app, which is also connected to Uber, should members also need transport.

Additionally, a section of the website reveals “Guava Perks” for members, including discounts for fitness brands and healthy-food outlets. Plus, if members are travelling to other cities with GuavaPass, their passes can be used there as well.

The price: Monthly memberships cost a flat fee of Dh449, and give access to a variety of workouts and studios across the city.

The restrictions: The catch is that members may only visit each studio up to three times per month. You may cancel a booked class for free up to 12 hours before the class, after which there is a Dh30 fee, or a no-show fee of Dh40.


The lowdown: FittPass was founded in Dubai last year, and offers discounted passes to gyms and studios around the city. The passes are valid for between one day and 12 months, and give admission to a single facility in the FittPass network. The advantage is that it offers users more flexibility in membership lengths and a discount over regular class or gym fees. . The packages on offer are valid for either one day, five days, 30 days, three months, six months or 12 months, and give admission to a single facility in the FittPass network. Ali Bin Zayed, co-owner of CrossFit Ultra, a FittPass-­associated facility in Al Quoz, is pleased with the partnership so far. “We’ve had a few FittPass members come in since we joined with them three months ago, and they’re mostly signing up with short-term passes,” he says.

Availability: After registering on the site, users can search for a particular facility, depending on its location or activities offered. The basics are included, and specialised categories, such as mixed martial arts, yoga, dance and swimming, are also covered. After selecting a facility, users have the option of choosing between the different passes, from a single-day use to a year-long membership.

The price: Prices depend on the classes and length of membership. For instance, if a user is attracted to the classes at Café de la Danse in Umm Suqeim, they can purchase a one-day pass for a group aerial dance class for Dh90, or a five-day pass for group pole-related classes for Dh325. Or, a user could get a gym pass at the Grand Millennium hotel in Tecom – a 30-day pass with gym and pool access costs Dh495, while a six-month pass costs Dh1,980. Both these facilities give members a 10 per cent discount, no matter which pass is purchased.

The restrictions: The passes are valid at a single gym or studio, and while some of the more long-term packages give access to more than one class or workout method at the facility, most one-day passes are valid for a particular class only. Right now FittPass is available in Dubai, however there are plans to expand into Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Beirut, Doha and Amman.

Core Direction

The lowdown: Launched in Dubai in May 2015, Core Direction is an app aimed at corporate members. Founder Clifford Tindell says: “The purpose of this app is two-fold: enabling small fitness business owners to sell membership to large corporate companies, and enabling large corporate companies to give their employees access to smaller, more customer-centric fitness facilities at huge corporate discounts.”

Availability: After downloading the app and registering a profile, corporate partners and their employees gain access to the partnered facilities, including Bikram Yoga ME, CrossFit DropZone, Club Stretch and more, with activities such as indoor cycling, surfing, kayaking and parkour also available. There is no cost for a company to register; it simply needs to be approved by the management. Memberships are available in one-, three-, six- and 12-month periods, or as one-, five-, 10-, 20- and 25-session passes to give members flexibility.

The price: The launch package costs Dh600, which provides about Dh2,200 worth of workouts and benefits, such as a 10-day trial at all the facilities, access to social events, body-analysis tracking and 12 free guest passes. Members get discounts of between 15 to 50 per cent. Prices range from Dh50 for a day pass to more costly options for long-term memberships. If they decide to buy a membership to one of the facilities, the Dh600 fee will be deducted.

Restrictions: Partnered facilities are mostly in Dubai, with two gyms in Sharjah and Ajman, though there are plans to launch in Abu Dhabi this year. Passes are valid at a single gym or studio. For those looking for an independent, non-corporate membership, rates are the same as they would be for the general public; how­ever, the member will be given 12 guest passes, valid for 12 months.

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