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Sticking to a few simple guidelines means corporate hospitality can still be useful and enjoyable
Corporate hospitality is an established and important part of conducting business, but for some reason many people still view it with suspicion.
The proportionality of corporate hospitality has been particularly topical since the implementation of the Bribery Act 2010. Since this came into effect in July 2011 it has provoked debate around the legitimacy of corporate hospitality and discussions about this subject are now high on the agenda for many businesses. When the act was first implemented there was even a fear that all hospitality could constitute an offence.
However, the government has made it clear that the act does not exist to prevent business entertainment. It has also recognised that bona fide corporate hospitality is a key part of developing relationships, so the important thing is whether your hospitality is bona fide.
Concerns may arise where the entertainment is disproportionate to the underlying business. One of the key requirements of the act is that businesses must have adequate procedures in place to prevent this. Failure to do so may mean that the corporate entity is guilty of an offence. Therefore, businesses must ensure that they have checks in place to ensure associated costs are genuine, reasonable and proportionate. One way to do this is to source event hospitality through official, respected suppliers who know the market and are able to tailor packages to your needs.
When corporate hospitality is reasonable and proportionate it is an integral part of conducting business and there is no need for suspicion. In a world in which we communicate increasingly via remote platforms, face-to-face time is becoming more important.
Entertaining suppliers, clients and customers has become big business, but the model is far removed from what it was. Once it was a case of keeping customers happy with a day at the races and plenty of champagne, but now there is a trend toward smaller events and more personal experiences, tailored to the audience.
The City has always been a major consumer of corporate hospitality and there are now a variety of events available from specialist suppliers that have been designed with the new legal climate – and needs of clients – in mind.
The London Bierfest, which will recreate the traditional Bavarian beer festival experience in London this October, is an example of corporate hospitality’s new look – contemporary networking in a fun, affordable and unusual setting.
So you can rest assured that the law is not attempting to stop corporate hospitality – just prevent it from influencing serious business decisions.
Whether you are the host or a guest, remember to keep records that can be audited if required, and avoid making or accepting offers that come with conditions such as being dependent on becoming a supplier. That way you can host or attend your event with a clear conscience – and enjoy the occasion to boot.