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Event organisers 'must be flexible with corporate hospitality pricing'

Apr 08, 2009 | Blog

As summer approaches, so does a jam-packed calendar of major sporting events, including Wimbledon, Royal Ascot, the Ashes cricket series, the British Grand Prix and golf's oldest and finest competition, The Open.

With these occasions also comes an opportunity for companies to wine and dine their most important clients while watching some of the world's greatest players battle it out on the pitch, court, course or circuit.

But with Britain still trapped in the midst of recession, will firms cut back on corporate hospitality?

Kevin Wilks, director of Eventmasters, a company which specialises in creating corporate hospitality packages, admits that times are tough, but asserts that the industry is by no means falling apart.

"It's difficult. I think certain events are not selling as well as they would have been during the height of the boom times and from the point of view of the industry as a whole, there has been a reality check," he says.

By this, he means that event organisers are having to reign in their pricing so is more realistic to meet the current requirements of firms that are still looking to entertain their important clients.

He believes that prices have got "somewhat out of control" in the past, and this has had to change.

"From our experience those companies and those venues that are being less flexible, I think that they're unlikely to have the 'sold out' signs up."

Mr Wilks stresses that the key for organisers is to be realistic about the state of the marketplace and he says if they get their pricing right, they will be fine.

"We are still getting a reasonable level of enquiries but we are having to be as aggressive as possible with the various suppliers that we have to make sure that the packages we put together are competitively priced and are realistic," he explains.

"It isn't falling apart, it's still busy at Aintree, it was still busy at Cheltenham, it's still busy at all of the Ashes, but it's at a level whereby the pricing as, with all industries at the moment, there's a domino effect, everybody's looking to get the best possible deal they can."

Mr Wilks points to the attendances at recent events as an indication that they are not suffering to the extent that other sectors are.

He says the number of visitors at Aintree was not dissimilar from last year's figure, while attendances at Cheltenham on the first three days were slightly down on what they have historically been, but are far from approaching levels which could potentially jeopardise its future.

It is not just constraints on expenditure that are having an effect on the industry at the moment, but also public and employee perception, Mr Wilks suggests.

"There is the element of whether the company feel that they have sufficient budget to spend on corporate hospitality during these times and I also think there's a little bit of potential negativity that can be seen if people are spending what are seen to be large amounts of money during periods when people are having to be made redundant."

However, if event organisers can strike a balance, then they will "create the right environment" for companies to take advantage of what can be an ideal way to reward customer loyalty and employee contribution or set up future business deals.

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