Health and fitness is big business around the world. In fact, there are few industries that have seen a boom quite like it in recent years. According to the latest estimates, the global fitness equipment market alone is predicted to be worth a staggering USD 12.5bn by 2021. Along with the rise of equipment, apps and wearable technologies, another sector of the fitness industry that has grown significantly is that of the personal trainer.
And it’s not hard to see why this is particularly true in the UAE. The lifestyle here – especially in Dubai – lends itself all too well to poor health. Hectic schedules lead to bad eating habits while the on-demand nature of the city means residents have access to practically everything without having to lift a finger. Add to that the fact that visiting the gym feels like yet another commitment in an already busy schedule and it’s not difficult to see why the famous ‘Dubai stone’ – the amount of weight new residents put on when they arrive in the city – has worked its way into local folklore.
So conditions like these are perfect for the entrepreneur with the skills and qualifications to carve their own path in the booming fitness industry. Dubai’s huge expat community want to get fit on their own time – and a personal trainer that comes to them, when and where they want, is the ideal solution. Meanwhile, the trainers themselves benefit as they can choose their own areas of specialisation – cardio, weights, HIT, or even yoga or Pilates – and decide their own schedule and working hours.
How to become a personal trainer in the UAE
If it sounds like you fit the mould and are ready to grab your slice of the Emirates’ ever-growing PT pie, here’s your guide on how to become a personal trainer in the UAE.
1. Apply for your personal trainer licence: Naturally the first port of call when becoming a personal trainer in the UAE is obtaining your licence. This process is two-fold. First, you must apply to a UAE free zone that offers sports services, such as Fujairah Creative City. Here you can obtain a personal training permit which allows you to establish your business. Once you’ve got your free zone licence, you’ll then need to apply for a work permit from the General Authority of Youth & Sports Welfare in Dubai. This permit costs around AED 500 and will allow you to ply your trade throughout the Dubai mainland. It’s vital that you complete both stages of this process because free zones can issue sports services licences but cannot authorise you to work in the Dubai mainland – this is wholly at the discretion of the General Authority of Youth and Welfare.
2. Setting up as a personal trainer is quick and easy: Another factor behind the boom in personal trainers in the UAE is that barriers to entry are fairly low. Most UAE free zones that accommodate sports services will usually issue licences in a matter of days, and applying for your work permit is also quick and easy. To make your work permit application, first you’ll need to register with the previously mentioned General Authority of Youth & Sports Welfare (via their website) and then with the UAE Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs). REPs is an independent, public register which recognises, and essentially endorses, the qualifications and expertise of fitness professionals in the UAE. The following documents will be required by the Authority: your printed application form and REPs qualification certificate, an outline of the type of fitness activity you wish to specialise in and a copy of your passport and visa. Applications are usually approved within four days of submission.
Another factor behind the boom in personal trainers in the UAE is that barriers to entry are fairly low.
3. Opening your own office or studio: Many people choose to become personal trainers in the UAE for the freedom it offers, and therefore have no interest in opening their own studio or office. It is perfectly possible to trade in the UAE as a personal trainer with no physical space by simply running classes on the beach, in local parks or at clients’ houses. However, if you wish to employ staff or obtain multiple visas then you may need to take office space on the mainland – be it a small office, studio or gym. Depending on the type of physical space you wish to open, you may need to apply to a relevant authority such as the Department of Economic Development (DED) to do so. Once you have been given the go-ahead, you can then negotiate a lease for your chosen building directly with the landlord. As this process can be complex, it pays to seek guidance from a UAE company formation specialist before embarking on this step.
4. No NOC required from local sponsor: Personal training is an ideal first business for many in the UAE, not only because setup is fast, easy and flexible but it is also possible to launch your business while still in employment. A No Objection Certificate (NOC) is not required to obtain a personal trainer permit, allowing entrepreneurs to grow their business on the side until they are ready to go it alone.
5. You can sponsor dependants: Obtaining a personal training permit from a free zone doesn’t just make it super easy to get your own visa, you’re also able to sponsor dependants for their residence visas too. Providing you meet the application criteria, you can sponsor the visa applications for staff such as drivers or your spouse and other dependants. The process is relatively easy – entry permit, status adjustment, medical fitness test, then Emirates ID registration, and visa stamping. But it’s a good idea to get advice from an expert in setting up UAE free zone businesses. They will help you make sure that before you start an application, both you (and those you’re hoping to sponsor) meet the entry requirements.
Obtaining a personal training permit from a free zone doesn’t just make it super easy to get your own visa, you’re also able to sponsor dependants for their residence visas too.
6. No auditing or book keeping required: As well as offering freedom and flexibility, personal training is also the ideal career choice for the paperwork-adverse entrepreneur. Unlike many professions in the UAE, there are no requirements for personal trainers to be audited, or to provide books to the authorities.
7. It’s easy to arrange a corporate bank account: Assistance with opening your corporate bank account is yet another way that setting up in a free zone as a personal trainer can help to lower your administrative burden. Free zone authorities are on hand to advise on the application process and can also arrange a meeting with your chosen bank should you require one.
Why become a personal trainer in the UAE?
Of course, just because a particular sector is in the ascendance in the UAE, doesn’t mean that anyone and everyone can get a piece of the action. Personal trainers require a unique set of skills – aside from a talent for fitness and exercise, you’ll also need to be business-minded, personable and a great motivator. But if this sounds like you then there’s never been a better time to become a personal trainer in the UAE.
As well as the freedom of being your own boss, working when and where you like, you’ll also be able to get paid for your passion while getting the ultimate job satisfaction – watching people improve their lives with your support.
As you can see, getting set up is quick and easy and the demand is higher than ever, particularly in the non-stop city of Dubai. So, what are you waiting for? Talk to a company formation specialist and start applying for your personal training permit today – you could be working with your first clients within weeks.