Why Moving to the Membership Model Spells Success for Resorts

With subscription services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, ClassPass, Blue Apron, and well, the list invariably goes on and on… the membership model has effectively permeated across dozens and dozens of industries, quickly eclipsing the pay-per-product model. Granted, while some businesses have struggled with the membership model (here’s looking at you MoviePass) others have seen staggering success, helping them gain loyal customers and increase their bottom line. 

The concept of the membership model seems to fit perfectly with the hospitality industry’s goals — build personal relationships, create brand loyalty, and of course see steady revenue. However, we don’t see an overwhelming amount of membership options in the industry. So how does this membership model translate to resorts and why are many slow to move toward the growing membership trend? 

Moving Beyond Loyalty Programs

First and foremost, the membership model is not a loyalty program. A majority of resorts offer free loyalty programs as an incentive for guests to keep coming back, providing perks and rewards to those who sign up for their program. So, whether a guest is a frequent or infrequent traveler, signing up for a loyalty program guarantees they see immediate benefits such as free WIFI, as well as long term perks like a free night stay after one year in the program. 

Resorts with successful loyalty programs may be more reluctant to integrate a membership model, concerned that travelers won’t find the value in paying for benefits when they already receive perks for free. However, resorts that have adopted a successful membership model see a steady revenue stream, which allows them to scale effectively and develop new member exclusive services tailored to guest needs and wants, ensuring guests will want to come back again and again. 

Unlike loyalty programs that allow guests to easily switch from one resort to another based on points and perks, the membership model encourages loyalty. Members will be less likely to book a trip to another resort if they’re already a member. Plus, members typically bring along other guests, recommend the resort to friends and coworkers, and pass down their membership to family members, helping develop brand and resort loyalty.  

Creating a Successful Membership Model

To implement a successful membership model, resorts need to find the right price point and value for members. Resorts must create a meaningful community, exceptional experiences, and on-brand desirable and exclusive benefits that are a clear upgrade from standard loyalty programs — to show guests that their membership is worth the price. 

Riverbend at the American Club in Kohler, WI encompasses these values, illustrating the success a resort can achieve by employing a membership model. Riverbend offers two membership levels: Club level and Golf level. Member benefits include exclusive access to lodging, dining, spa, wilderness preserve, sports privileges, yoga classes, and access to renowned golf courses. Along with access to their facilities and services, a Riverbend membership offers discounts on guest rooms, in their pro shops, at the spa, and complimentary perks on their golf courses.

Riverbend has been able to create a membership package that appeals and caters to their target guest. Members are charged an initiation fee plus annual dues, allowing Riverbend to see a financial return with the funds to continue revitalizing a resort that rewards its members with new experiences and services each time they return. 

Utilizing the membership model may be the next step for resorts to earn consistent revenue and increase brand loyalty. But to find success, resorts will need to create a membership package that provides an appealing price, value, and experience for guests.  

Photo Source: Kohler Company

Frank Jermusek

Frank Jermusek, J.D.

President / Managing Director

Frank Jermusek is a Principal at SVN | Northco headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. SVN has become one of the most recognized commercial real estate brands in the world with over 200 offices globally.