Corporate hospitality rise a good sign

05 August 2010 by
Corporate hospitality rise a good sign

Ever since the dreaded global recession began, it has been easier to shuck a bucketful of oysters than it has to prise open the expense accounts of most corporate customers.

And that has seen big sections of the industry - from country house hotels to fine-dining restaurants and corporate catering operations - suffer. It has been a tough few years. But even as the Government takes an axe to the public sector, it looks as if things in the private sector are starting to look up.

More punters cheering at the races may not seem entirely relevant to hospitality but the quickening pace of corporate entertaining bodes well for the wider market.

This week racecourse operator Arena Leisure posted a 25% rise in profits for the first six months of the year and within that, it saw corporate hospitality numbers shoot up 13%, compared with an increase of just 3% among the general public.

The firm revealed that evening racing in particular had been a popular fixture before the recession, and was now recovering as City workers returned once again with clients and colleagues to celebrate.

It's encouraging news not just for racecourse owners and associated suppliers but also for hoteliers, restaurants and contract caterers. If the corporate blinkers have been removed and the expense accounts released, then the growth predicted in the corporate hospitality market may have been a safe bet.

We're unlikely to ever get back to the heady pre-Lehman Brothers days, as corporate clients remain wary about how they are seen to celebrate. But it can only be good for the industry if business is unafraid to enjoy the value and top-class service on offer, even if they are less likely to order the most expensive wine available.

However, as HSBC has just revealed a doubling of profit for the first six months of the year to £7b, those days might not be as far off as they seemed six month ago.

James Stagg, Content Editor, Caterer and Hotelkeeper

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