International clubs seeing demand dip as expat pay packages cut

Three of four international clubs here interviewed by The Straits Times have seen a dip in membership take-up rates, as expatriate pay packages are trimmed in an uncertain economy.

These packages used to cover club memberships, which generally cost between $10,000 and $55,000, along with housing allowances and children's schooling.

"More people have been leaving the club than people joining," said the Swiss Club's marketing manager Christelle Taillens.

When The Straits Times visited the Swiss Club on an afternoon last month, its lush estate in Bukit Timah was largely empty.

Meanwhile, Ms Patricia Au, assistant general manager of the American Club, said its membership take-up rates have fallen by 15 per cent from last year.

"People are generally more cautious, because many have to pay out of their own pockets,"she said.

Still, the club's facilities, which include a spa, bowling lanes and five restaurants, enjoy a high chargeable usage of 82 to 83 per cent a month, she said.

The Hollandse Club, too, has seen its membership take-up rate fall.

One club that is bucking trends is the British Club, which has had more members and seen its membership prices increase.

Its individual lifetime membership - its top deal that allows holders voting rights - costs $20,000, up from $12,000 four years ago, said general manager Sean Boyle.

Most of the clubs say they now see a more diverse crowd.

For instance, over the past few decades, Hollandse Club has gone from being predominantly Dutch to its current make-up: 28 per cent Dutch, with Singaporeans forming 22 per cent, and the British, 16 per cent. Australians, New Zealanders and Americans form 7 per cent.

"We want to be a truly international family club," said Ms Marloes Schoonenberg, its sales and marketing manager.

"We're not made up entirely of expats - as you can see, many of our members are Singaporeans. "

To attract more members, the Swiss and Hollandse clubs have rolled out aggressive recruitment drives and lowered prices.

For instance, the Swiss Club has a short-term "summer membership", at $650 for three months.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2016, with the headline 'International clubs seeing demand dip as expat pay packages cut'. Subscribe