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Sat 21 Jun 2008 04:00 AM

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Climbing high

Raymond Sport managing partner Raymond Kelly reveals a growth in the popularity of climbing in the UAE and a need to bring the country's many squash facilities up to date.

Raymond Sport managing partner Raymond Kelly reveals a growth in the popularity of climbing in the UAE and a need to bring the country's many squash facilities up to date.

How would you sum up the philosophy of Raymond Sport?

The company is passionate about sports and leisure and focused on being directly involved with this industry.

Even though we sell every day, we are personally involved in every project we work on and have very strong relationships with our clients.

As a sports-oriented company, why exhibit at Wellness and Spas?

Our focus at the Wellness and Spas Middle East exhibition in May was our range of Hollman Lockers; vibration training from Vibrogym; fitness equipment and entertainment systems from Precor; and wooden and wet floorings.

We have around 50 companies in our portfolio and can be a one-stop-shop, but by the same token, we are not greedy. Clients can pick any product from our menu that suits their needs.

What are the unique features of Hollman Lockers?

Hollman has two main USPs: the keyless lock does not rely on electronics or batteries and the lockers themselves are available as individual units that can be brought into the changing rooms and linked together there and then just four days before opening.

We need to change the current mindset where lockers are built into the changing room a month before the gym or spa opens in the midst of painting and flooring.

Which of your products has had the most surprising impact?

We introduced X-Clean, a disposable fitness equipment cleaning wipe from the US, even though most operators we spoke to said members in the UAE wouldn't use them. It's now a really popular product that complements the rest of our business as clients order them regularly.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

Climbing has been growing for us, with a new outdoor climbing wall set to launch at The Pavilion sports centre at Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai.

We have project managed a 1300m² climbing facility at Aspire in Qatar, which is based around four separate walls and will be the biggest climbing facility in the world.

We work with UK-based company Enter-Prises to supply these facilities, and can also provide caves, such as those recently completed at Emirates Aviation College.

We have also just equipped the gym at Emaar's Burj Lake Hotel in Dubai with Precor equipment. It's also set up for the ClubCom and Channel Cast entertainment systems, although these are yet to be installed. It really is a very high quality facility.

In what product areas do you predict growth over the next 12 months?

We have four very unique systems that we are focused on at the moment: Cardio Theater from Precor; Altitude Training Systems; Hollman Lockers; and Enter-Prises climbing walls.

In what areas does the sports and fitness industry need to develop?

The UAE is behind in squash court development, despite the fact that we as a company are building 30 courts a year! Per head of the population, it is safe to say that there are more squash courts in Dubai than anywhere else in the world.

However, squash courts here have plaster walls, but in all the very latest installations elsewhere the courts are panelised. It is more expensive at the outset but needs less work and investment in the long-term. Operators need to bear this in mind - they can't afford to go to their members and say something is under maintenance.

Another area to focus on is vibration training: the level of education and knowledge of vibration training is very low in the UAE. With Vibrogym, we want to improve this.

About Raymond SportRaymond Sport LLC was established in Dubai 20 years ago by chemical engineer Raymond Kelly.

The company began trading in tennis surfaces and has over the years expanded to offer fitness equipment; wet area and health club products; multi-purpose sports flooring and sports lighting; squash courts; sport and playground equipment; and indoor/outdoor climbing structures.

The business now has 150 employees, with teams in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah as well as Dubai, and at any given time, has up to 30 projects ongoing.

Last year, the company reported its largest turnover to date with a growth of 17%. Around 20% of the business' total revenue is from supplying hotel or resort gyms and of all the fitness equipment sold by Raymond Sport, 70% is bought by hotel developers and operators, while the remainder goes to private or residential developers.

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