Are Membership Clubs A Hit In Post-Covid Travel Boom? One Brand Sees Huge Potential

Hospitality is taking its next step following the pandemic years, but it may not be open for everyone. Beyond the traditional hotel, private clubs are growing in number and becoming the destination of choice for many travelers that seek more than just a place to rest their head. People are looking for a greater sense of belonging and privacy with upscale services to go with it.

Since private clubs can also control membership, as well as the prized sense of privacy that members want, it becomes a type of social bubble not found in traditional restaurants and hotels, often with a capped level of membership.

Celebrities, corporate executives and those seeking the ultimate in privacy flock to venues where they benefit from high-end services among like-minded peers. Familiar names include Soho House, Casa Cipriani and Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles among others.

What may seem like big business, especially after the Covid pandemic, may not always translate to profitability, or at least until now. Membership Collective Group, the parent company of Soho House (the company will soon change its name to Soho House & Co.), reported its first profitable quarter in late 2022, a sign that the model may be appealing to more people.

At the end of 2022, Soho House membership across its brands include 227,000 people showing double digit growth from the year before.

Among its many brands is The Ned, a private members’ club that originated in London in 2017. Designed by Sir Edwin “Ned” Lutyens in 1924, the club is the vision of Nick Jones.

Today, the brand counts three locations in its portfolio following the 2022 opening of The Ned NoMad in New York and The Ned Doha.

Each of its properties showcase notable history and design. For example, The Ned NoMad is in The Johnston Building, dating back more than a century, and The Ned Doha is in a former Ministry of Interior building.

All three locations were part of an adaptive reuse project, a trend that the brand hopes to continue.

The idea, says Gareth Banner, group managing director for The Ned brand, is to “create a space for like-minded professionals to meet, work and have a good time.”

Banner explains why private clubs are growing in popularity and how travelers can find opportunity by belonging to one.

How do membership clubs like The Ned work?

Members of The Ned receive global access to all properties. They can dine, work, entertain and stay at any of the properties. While guests can visit some properties in the form of a hotel or restaurant, there are private areas and discounts that appeal to members. The two New York City properties will perfectly complement one another, each offering services and amenities only available at their respective location. The Ned NoMad does not have a spa, but The Ned Exchange will offer members and guests a full suite of wellness services just like in London or Doha.

Being a member of such clubs is not cheap. The Ned Doha membership fee is $7,500 with a $1,000 joining fee, but demand is high, often with a waiting list. Members receive invitations to exclusive parties and creative events in private areas of The Ned properties as well as a discount on dining and spa services.

How did Covid effect the members club model?

The pandemic changed the way people look at everything, and there has been a strong return from the market for restaurants and access to private events. People are craving experiences more than ever, especially with top-notch dining instead of being forced to stay home and cook. Still, some people want to be in places with fewer people. Even those that returned to work may be working on a reduced timetable. This is why there is a greater need for independent work spaces, which is something that The Ned offers.

There is also a digital component for membership with N.APP, the brand’s app, which offers weekly virtual events ranging from yoga classes to celebrity playlists. There are also wine tasting masterclasses and regular talks. This is the result from a pivot during the pandemic to offer something for members, but remains popular today.

Wellness has undoubtedly become an area of greater importance in people’s lives, too. The Ned is one of the few clubs in London with a complete offering (gym with personal training, pools, hammam and spa).

Why did you choose Doha for the third location?

From the FIFA World Cup to new art galleries, fashion pop ups and luxury hospitality concept debuts, Doha is a melting pot for creativity today. Doha has a rich blend of traditional and contemporary offerings, and its position as a global business center and leisure destination presented a great opportunity for The Ned and its diverse membership base.

Where else does The Ned plan to expand?

The Ned will be opening an additional property in Doha later this year along the beach with restaurants, private villas and guest rooms. Next year, The Ned Washington D.C. is slated to open as well as a second New York City outpost. It will be housed in the heart of the Financial District in what was formerly the American Stock Exchange Building. Dubbed The Ned Exchange, it will offer a pool, gym, wellness facilities, a performance space, and additional drinking and dining establishments.