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Sales of hospitality packages for companies to wine and dine clients at the Olympics have defied the recession and brought in more than 100 million pounds ($155 million) in sales, the firm providing them said on Friday.
London marks the first time that such high-end tickets have been made available to businesses beyond the inner circle of Games sponsors, in an innovation that is likely to be repeated.
Corporate hospitality is an integral part of business life in London, where companies are used to taking guests to cricket at Lord’s or rugby at Twickenham to build relationships in a less formal environment.
“We felt if there was anywhere this could work, it would be London,” said Alan Gilpin, Chief Operating Officer of Prestige Ticketing, which has been hosting 3,000 people at a time in its pavilion in the Olympic Park in east London. “We set out to sell 100 million pounds’ worth and we’ve gone past that,” he added.
Asked if Prestige had returned a profit, Gilpin said: “Yes, but not as much as we set out to make.”
Explaining the shortfall, Gilpin said Prestige, which was allowed to buy around 80,000 Games tickets, had priced some of its packages conservatively and spent 9.5 million pounds on building its temporary venue looking out on to the Olympic Stadium.
He described the spending as a good investment to help showcase its business.
Prestige, a joint venture between French catering company Sodexo and the British hospitality firm Mike Burton group, has had exploratory talks with Rio 2016 organizers about offering packages there.
The top package for last week’s opening ceremony sold at 7,500 pounds a head — including the best seat in the house and dinner before the show. However, Gilpin said that more than 70 percent of its program had been priced at under 1,000 pounds.
Some British companies had been worried that offering tickets to clients might see them fall foul of new anti-bribery legislation.
“It’s had an impact on UK hospitality sales,” said Gilpin, speaking at a media lunch in the pavilion.
“We ended up selling more internationally than was the original objective of the program.”
Not all of the packages had been bought by big companies.
“Twenty percent of our purchases have been made by families and individuals who might have sacrificed their summer holidays,” Gilpin said.
($1 = 0.6444 British pounds)
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan, For all the latest Olympic news go to http://www.reuters.com/london-olympics-2012)