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Top trends 1


One race meeting and feeding him or her up may not be a problem, but paying for their entire family to come to London for a match certainly could be.


“The issue is often that this can be inter-


preted in different ways across an organisa- tion – something suitable for a high-level executive and decision-maker could be deemed excessive for a more junior level person,” explains Ian Cummings, regional director for Carlson Wagonlit’s Meetings and Events.


Some firms will only now consider hospitality, such as entertainment, if it is in conjunction with, say, an educational workshop or a top-level networking event that happens to end in dinner. The days of hospitality for hospitality’s sake appear to be long gone. “A corporate programme should be more than just a list of ‘happy events’,’” states Paul Wait, chief executive of the Guild of Travel Manage- ment Companies. “If clients need to seek approval to attend, then the objective of the event must be clearly set out and include elements such as commercial updates, product launches, networking and customer feedback. Hosts need to play an active part in delivering on these objectives and the guests need to leave


“A corporate programme should be more than just a list of ‘happy events’”


feeling informed, recognised and having made new business relationships of value.” In fact, cleverly intertwining a purely


corporate get-together with some form of hospitality seems to be the way to blur the edges a bit these days. “Team building and activities, more competitive and collabora- tive events and memorable experiences are the more recent trends,” suggests Karen Avery, sales director at Eynsham Hall, a conference venue and country house in the Cotswolds.


CORPORATE-EVENT FATIGUE It’s perhaps this type of language and of- fering where new grey areas in the field of hospitality could evolve. It doesn’t help that corporate-event fatigue is very much part of the narrative these days. Most executives have been to events, which are now much


‘Sign-off is crucial’ CASE STUDY


A GLOBAL BANK, WHICH WANTS TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS, recently invited more than 30 of its top clients to a networking event in an Asian city. The three-day conference was organised for chief executives from Poland to Mexico, Canada and the UK. The bank paid for each person to attend, including flights, board and accommodation. There were hospitality events and golf included in the package. “It was a huge expense – I am not sure whether it will be done again,” explains the travel buyer. The bribery division of the bank had to get involved and everything had to be justified. “We had to get compliance forms signed by all the CEOs and their companies’ lawyers and compliance teams. I thought it would be a lot more difficult than it was,” states the organiser. “The banks’ clients appear to be increasingly used to this kind of thing now. The Bribery Act is something that everyone was very much aware of. However, sign-off is crucial.”


BUYINGBUSINESSTRAVEL.COM


There are definitely more ‘bolt-on’ hospitality packages, such as a meeting with a dinner or a morning conference, with a round of golf in the afternoon.


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There is more demand for meals and activities, which are seen as acceptable ways to build and cement relationships, and less complimentary stays and invitations to sporting and corporate events.


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Those who accept it and buy it look for more flexibility, for example, within a modular package that adds together dinner, plus an event, plus a night’s stay, depending on what is acceptable.


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Public sector, defence industry, finance and pharmaceutical industries are now a lot more stringent when it comes to corporate hospitality.


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Industries going through their own economic challenges, such as oil and gas, as well as resources and manufacturing, have clamped down on buying and receiving corporate hospitality.


more accessible than in the past, so the ‘wow’ factor is harder to achieve. “The fact is, business has for centuries been done over a drink or a dinner,” says Wratten. “I was recently asked to attend an evening drinks function with a number of other companies and was asked to sign a Bribery Act disclaimer before attending – to me, that’s unnecessary. Of course, have a sign-off process in place, but please inject some common sense into your company policy regarding corporate hospitality.” This seems to be the consensus. There’s certainly nothing wrong with a good dose of hospitality, as long as it’s for the right reasons, it’s proportionate and has a clear, well-thought-out business plan.


BBT JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 125


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