Membership is not a dirty word

Here’s a story we’d like to hear: a facility increasing repeat visitation and reducing price barriers, as well as opening up new revenue streams. Great, but how is this done? Well for Gold Coast theme parks it’s by introducing memberships.

The growing adoption of memberships and instalment payment plans by the Gold Coast’s theme parks is not only increasing repeat visitation and reducing price barriers but is also opening up new revenue streams.
— Australian Leisure Management, Jan 2016

The golf industry routinely reports on declining memberships, with the occasional story of an innovative membership package giving hope to member-based clubs watching numbers shrink. The sporting trends in recent years have all shown declining interest in membership products. So what gives? Memberships in fact offer considerable benefits for a golf facility, as an alternative to standard single-visit green fees.

Membership has its benefits

Australian Leisure Management magazine reports on the growing use of memberships in theme parks in Australia, following trends in the USA market. Heavily based on price and revenue analysis, the membership model is taking over from season passes, which had become common in theme parks in recent years, in addition to single-day ticket sales. The memberships offer key benefits to the theme parks by:

  • establishing an attendance base in advance of the season, buffering the facility from inclement weather
  • driving in-park spending as members visit more frequently
  • driving off-peak visitation as members visit for shorter periods outside peak times
  • encouraging word-of-mouth marketing through members bringing friends to drive better value out of their membership
  • allowing the facility to better manage price increases, in particular through monthly memberships that have lower sticker prices per-month than season passes
  • reducing attrition as memberships are auto-renewing, unlike season passes

Public golf facilities are adopting similar strategies, recognising the benefits to both the facility and the customer arising from membership packages. Some Councils have introduced leisure memberships across all their leisure facilities, see for instance the City of Yarra in Melbourne.

A public facility evolving towards member-based price structures faces an easier task than a member-based club evolving away from annual memberships to pay-for-play models: the traditional members will resist the latter approach, fearing brand damage and loss of total revenue, whilst green fee golfers are simply being offered another way to pay. Public facilities should still consider membership packages in designing their pricing strategies, and can draw inspiration from other industries in doing so.

Of course, the decline of memberships is more than just a revenue issue, with many clubs responding to the challenge with new offers as well as price packages. We’ll be sure to pick up more on the topic at the Golf Business Forum as we explore key trends in pricing, and identify new models that better drive yield on public golf facilities.

In the meantime, see more at Australian Leisure Management.