Hospitality is taking the next step after the pandemic years, but it may not be open to everyone. Beyond the traditional hotel, private clubs are increasing in number and becoming the destination of choice for many travelers looking for more than just a place to rest their heads. People are looking for a greater sense of belonging and privacy with the luxury services that come with it.
Since private clubs can also control membership, as well as the precious sense of privacy that members want, it becomes a type of social bubble not found in traditional restaurants and hotels, often with a limited membership level.
Celebrities, corporate executives and those seeking absolute privacy flock to spaces where they benefit from high-quality service among like-minded colleagues. Notable 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 into profitability, or at least not yet. 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 appeal to more people .
At the end of 2022, Soho House memberships across all its brands include 227,000 people, a double-digit increase from the previous year.
Among its many brands is The Ned, a private members club launched 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 opening of The Ned NoMad in New York and Ned Doha in 2022.
Each of its properties exhibits remarkable history and design. For example, The Ned NoMad is housed in The Johnston Building, which dates back more than a century, and The Ned Doha is housed in a former Home Office building.
All three locations were part of an adaptive reuse project, a trend 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 fun”.
Banner explains why private clubs are growing in popularity and how travelers can find bargains 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 in any of the accommodations. While guests can visit some accommodations in the form of a hotel or restaurant, there are private areas and discounts aimed at members. The two New York properties will complement each other ideally, as each offers services and amenities only in its respective location. Ned NoMad does not have a spa, but The Ned Exchange will offer members and guests a full range of wellness services as in London or Doha.
Being a member of such clubs is not cheap. Ned Doha’s 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 spaces at The Ned properties, as well as a discount on dining and spa services.
How has Covid affected the membership club model?
The pandemic has 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 crave experiences more than ever, especially with premium dining rather than being forced to stay home and cook. However, some people want to be in places with fewer people. Even those who have returned to work may be working a reduced schedule. This is why there is a greater need for independent workspaces, which is what The Ned offers.
There’s also a digital component to participating in 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 of a spin during the pandemic to offer something to members, but remains popular today.
Wellness has undoubtedly become an area of greater importance in people’s lives as well. Ned is one of the few clubs in London with a comprehensive offer (gym with personal training, swimming pools, hammam and spa).
Why did you choose Doha for third place?
From the FIFA World Cup to new art galleries, fashion pop ups and luxury hospitality debuts, Doha is a melting pot for creativity today. Doha has a rich mix of traditional and modern offerings and its position as a global business center and leisure destination presented an excellent opportunity for The Ned and its diverse membership base.
Where else does The Ned plan to expand?
Ned will open an additional property in Doha later this year along the beach with restaurants, private villas and rooms. Next year, The Ned Washington DC is expected to open as well as a second outpost in New York. It will be housed in the heart of the Financial District in what was formerly the American Stock Exchange building. Named The Ned Exchange, it will offer a swimming pool, gym, wellness facilities, performance space and additional food and beverage facilities.