While hospitality has long been recognised as a way of rewarding and motivating employees, the past year has seen the emergence of a new breed of experiential package. This will be the year when corporate hospitality becomes the ultimate employee (as opposed to client) incentive, with companies looking after the most valuable commodity – their staff.
During the 1970s, corporate hospitality emerged as a way of winning new clients through business lunches and dinners. Over the past decade, buying patterns have changed, with entertaining at the UK’s big sporting events coming to be used for more internal purposes, branching out into team-building and incentives schemes.
Companies want their employees to be able to taste the atmosphere at Twickenham or Wimbledon and not be shut off from the spirit of the event. Gone are the days when a well-presented three-course meal and seats in a hospitality box would be sufficient for guests being entertained at the UK’s top sporting events. Today they want the priceless experience of interaction with famous current or from sports stars – fresh from the pitch, in some cases.
The Keith Prowse top-end Twickenham package is held in the Players’ Lounge restaurant in the South Stand, but eating is not the main attraction. It resembled a battlefield after England lost against the All Blacks in rugby last November. England captain Lewis Moody sported a mean-looking black eye, while team-mate Joe Worsley hobbled in on crutches. Guests are invited to put questions to the players, quizzing them on the match, tactics and even their own performances.
At cricket’s Kia Oval, companies encourage their employees to dress down for the day in the Experience Club, with open drinks fridges and games areas creating an informal and jovial pre-match atmosphere. This is a world away from the rigid, corporate package of days gone by. International stars warm up on the field metres away and this is what companies should expect for their investment in hospitality: a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Engagement is the key to the new experiential breed of hospitality. A champagne reception, sumptuous four-course meal with matching fine wines and the best seats in the house are an important part of a package, but are now only part of the overall experience.
There is no substitute for a memorable day out, employee interaction and enjoyment. Fond memories and shared experiences are what bond us and push us to go the extra mile. I believe this will prove to be the definitive motivational tool of the next decade.
Andy Vinsen (pictured) is commercial director at Keith Prowse