Networking became big in the 90s as a way of improving your chances at doing well in business, and things haven’t changed. Wouldn’t you prefer to do business with someone you see occasionally at your club bar, or someone whose kids swim with yours in the club pool? One way of getting to know people is to join a club, and Bangkok has plenty to choose from at prices that compare well to other capital cities in the region. Whether they’re called city, dining, recreational or family clubs, their ultimate objective is to allow people to socialise in a comfortable environment. Check membership requirements – most clubs require sponsorship by current members.
The Heritage Club’s concept is one of an international private club, but general manager Andrew Christon says there is an emphasis on dining, with a French, Chinese and Japanese restaurant on the premises, along with various function and meeting rooms, a bar and library. The fifteen-year old club is the only one in Bangkok owned and managed by professional club operators. "The idea was to create traditional English-style clubs in Asia offering more amenities," Christon says. "Joining gives people status, and it’s a great place for high-profile people to do business in without being bothered." This includes prime minister Thaksin, whom the club counts among its members.
Thais make up 70 per cent of the 1,700-strong membership, and members are predominantly managing directors and CEOs in their late 40s to early 50s, with female membership on the rise. Christon says that due to the degree of competition in Bangkok, membership prices are cheap compared to elsewhere. A US$2,500 corporate membership in Bangkok, for example, would cost US$50,000 in Tokyo.
The Pacific City Club opened its doors just six years ago, when its Thai owner noticed on a trip to Hong Kong that most people seemed to be members of such clubs. He wanted to popularise the concept among Thais, and so the club was born. Facilities available to the more than 1,000 members include Chinese, Thai and western restaurants, bar, health and fitness club, salon, sauna and steam, library and private dining and function rooms. According to their representative, most members join with a view towards building up networks with other members.
The British Club is one of Bangkok’s oldest, opening in 1903 as "a place for captains of industry to get together and socialise", says chairman James Young. Around 20 years ago, however, the non-commercial club began to expand and changed its structure to allow "ordinary" people to join – including women. "To maintain financial viability, we couldn’t remain an exclusive club for the managing directors of British companies," Young says. These days the club is family-oriented, and attracts a wide range of members. Facilities include several restaurants and bars, swimming pools, three squash courts, four tennis courts, a fitness centre, a snooker room, function rooms, massage service, games equipment, and a video library.
"Ordinary" membership is available to citizens of Australia, Britain, New Zealand and Canada, while "Associate" membership is available to other people. No more than one third of the total membership can be assocate members, and of those, no more than one third can be made up of one nationality. Currently 37 nationalities are represented among the more than 1,000 members.
The emphasis at the 6,000 m2 Capitol Club, which is attached to the President Park complex and opened in 1994, is on health and fitness, but it’s also a leisure and social club. Amenities include a gym, salon, massage and therapy rooms, five tennis courts, two squash courts,bar, karaoke, spa, steam room, sauna, a climbing wall and a pool deck with three pools. Membership administrator Apinya Junlaklang advises that the club has around 1,000 members, aged from 23 up. "It’s quite a young group."
There are a multitude of other clubs around – the clubs above are a selection – so it’s worth spending some time visiting several places to see whether they suit your style and attract the sort of clientele you’d like to associate with. In time you’ll probably find you make good friends – and those are priceless.