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Corporate Hospitality in the New Corporate World

Date: Wednesday 9th March 2016

EMA held their March 2015 event at Dartmouth House discussing 'Corporate Hospitality in the New Corporate World'.

Moderated by Andrew White from Triggerfish Communications, and with an expert panel that included Stephen Farrow, Event Director of Aegon Championships, Nick Gratwick of Keith Prowse, and EMA Associate Cheryl Chickowski formerly of RBC and BVCA. 

Corporate Hospitality in the New Corporate World 

The discussion started with what is currently happening in the marketplace and why we need corporate entertainment. According to the panellists, hospitality always used to be about entertainment, today it is very much business driven; all about business development, communication, learning and business strategy, it plays a key role in the overall marketing mix. Organisations are interested in investing in memorable experiences therefore ‘experiential marketing’ plays a big role – the hospitality, service, experience the attendee experiences is a reflection of the host brand. It’s vitally important to make sure your hospitality experiences are aligned to your brand and more importantly aligned to the attendees likes and interests. 

Compliance, regulations and hospitality spend 

Should corporate hospitality spend be anonymous? The panellists suggested that it is not possible to be anonymous about it and it is even getting harder to justify expensive tickets. Therefore, the industry sees a trend of moving from expensive tickets to bespoke hospitality. 

Nick from KP commented that 10 years ago big companies were taking large spaces and big events and branding it – now they attend in much smaller numbers and discreetly. 

Any branding is left until you’re inside the corporate suite / box to communicate and create an experience that says who your hosts are. 

In the corporate environment it can take up to three/four weeks to get permission for bookings because it has to go through compliance, as such it is important that you communicate the process to the hospitality companies and enough time is allowed to complete process

Internal compliance procedure is a necessary evil, it is time consuming, cumbersome and bureaucratic – however no one can see a way around it, process has to be followed. There was talk and hope of better technology being developed that could speed the whole process up. 

Is the market back after the recession? 

The recession and the Bribery Act had a massive effect on numbers and spending. In a way this is good because it “cleaned” the market and the strongest industry players survived and had to adjust their offerings. examples include, smaller tables, restaurant layouts, buffets instead of seated dinner, less formality greater opportunities for networking. 

Who is buying corporate hospitality? 

Before, major clients were from finance, legal, pharmaceutical industries, now new industries have demand for corporate hospitality too, such as tech, gaming, advertising. We also see more and more small and medium enterprises booking corporate hospitality. 

Food trends 

Today’s guests are “foodies” and expectations are much higher – people expect a culinary experience, not just feeding. There is trend towards sustainability too, and so the customers want to know where the food is coming from and if it is local or organic. Tastes are changing and customers will not book the same event from previous year. 

Despite the tight budgets, there is still place for premium offer for food and beverages. 

Next generation X&Y 

We see the rise among young and affluent generation. How can we appeal to them? According to the panellists, they want a more relaxed atmosphere – grazing and perching instead of a round table, add on experiences like back stage with celebrity. Two of their characteristics – they are generally more active and tech savvy, adjusting to these new groups is a challenge as the generations merge. Providers and managers need to be aware and plan accordingly. 

Current offer on the market 

It was felt that there is an abundance of opportunities, (some would say too much) however this gives great opportunities to tailor make programs that are very aligned to your brand and to your attendee base – it’s hard to break with tradition and major events such as Rugby, Football, Chelsea Flower Show, however there are many new opportunities which could be appealing to your target group. Post crisis consolidation helped to clear and refresh the market, however we now see new innovative and exciting players entering the market such as Fortnum & Mason at the Flower Show. 

When choosing a hospitality provider to work with, it was the opinion of all to go to one with proven track record of experience with the type of events you want for your clients. For major sporting events work with the rights holders or at the least their official resale agencies. There are many tales of non-delivery, tickets not materialising within the industry. Do not be the next tale! 

Our thanks go to our panel of speakers!