On 31 July 2017 Paris was officially awarded to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. This is fantastic news for event professionals who are forward thinking and looking to offer their delegates a unique once in a lifetime corporate hospitality experiences at a major international event.
As we were expecting for this to happen, three weeks earlier, The MICE Blog and Atout France held an event in London at the Hoxton Shoreditch Hotel about Corporate Hospitality in France. At the event there was a lot of discussion about the Olympics, and now we are glad to say that this became a reality.
The Olympics will contribute to the society as a whole and be a boost to accelerate some projects that will be achieved earlier than planned. As in London, there will be pre and post Olympics with extension of the touristic city cente to other areas.
Three speakers from France joined us, Clément Laloux, Marketing Director at Paris Tourism and Convention Bureau, Arnaud Santin, UK Development Manager at Amaury Sport Organisation and Xavier Bordedebat, Senior Vice President Sales and Marketing at Lafayette Travel DMC. The session was moderated by Jane Houghton, Management and Presentation Coach at Jane Houghton Consulting.
The discussion started with addressing security topic mainly because of the terror attacks that took place last year in France, followed by discussing current trends in corporate hospitality, food trends, tips for getting best value for money and looking at the new demands of the millennial audience.
How is security being dealt with in France since the terror attacks?
Clément shared that security has been always important and after the attacks last year extra measures have been taken to strengthen security. The local police authorities are concerned about the MICE business and now offer a direct line to Préfecture de Police, the main administrative police body in Paris on a very senior level, to address all questions by event organisers planning their event in Paris.
Upon request, the Paris Convention Bureau can put the planners in contact with the police body. This police body can look after any group size and their security. Furthermore, they can give a presentation to the delegates about the security measures to make them feel comfortable and secure.
Arnaud added that at major (public) events, there is an “invisible” security level. This allows organisers to know at every single moment what’s going on at the venue or public areas.
Xavier shared that they have a safety manual, including procedures and safety plan that they share with clients. Additionally, they encourage their suppliers to have similar safety plans and commit to go through them with the client. Organisers can undertake different security measured. For example, face recognition, finger printing, delegates checks before allowing to board the coach etc. Additional security measures will result in additional event costs.
All agreed that the MICE business is resilient. The aftermath of the terror attacks more affected individual leisure travel.
What are the current trends in corporate hospitality in France?
Today, attendees want to have experiences that they can’t experience elsewhere. This can be, for example, a multi destination event involving a conference with an active incentive element. This trend encourages destinations to further develop their products and be able to propose new ideas.
Service providers and destinations should also adapt to the millennial audience. This audience expects to have memorable experiences that they can share with peers. Millenials want activities where they can help, be active, involved and leave a legacy behind them. For example, support a local community. Lastly, they want trendy and quirky venues.
What kind of price differentials is to be found in cities outside Paris?
Major events bring visitors to cities outside of Paris, such as Bordeaux, for example, that has set a new strategy to attract more tourists by creating new venues, new attractions etc. Furthermore, it depends when the company wants to host the event. Paris in August is less expensive than Cannes because of the festival, for example. So, August is a good time to bring a group to Paris.
What audience do you hope to attract to France and your events over the next 12 months?
In the next 12 months France expect to attract guests with keen interest in golf because of the Ryder Cup. Already now corporates are asking for opportunities to play golf where the Ryder Cup will take place next year.
Another target audience is IT events. With Paris setting focus on the IT industry and innovation (academic, incubators and start-ups), they are looking to attract more IT events to promote the French IT industry.
What are the corporate hospitality options for smaller groups?
The good news it, it’s not necessary to have a large group for corporate hospitality, groups can be as small as 5 – 6 people. Most importantly, when choosing a corporate hospitality option, it must fit audience needs. Roland Garros is a great example. If the audience loves tennis, it’s recommended to offer them the first days of the tournament because they will see more games. On the other hand, if the aim is employee recognition, it will be recommended to go to the finals because it’s more rewarding. Logistically, smaller groups of about 50 people have more options than large group and they can have more specialised and personalised experiences.
What are the current food trends in corporate hospitality?
There is a growing emphasis on food service and presentation. Another trend is to dine in local places, and the French start-up VizEat is revolutionising this trend by offering to dine at locals’ homes where the locals cook for them.
France puts very strong focus on their traditional food, so it will be challenging to find international food in France. But it’s slowly changing. There is a new generation of French chefs that offers traditional French cuisine but with international twists.
Further trend seen in Paris, famous for Michelin star restaurants, is the Bistronomy. Derived from the typical French “Bistro”, the new generation of chefs who open small restaurants provide good food for more affordable prices.
What’s the USP of France?
Best to say USPs(!), France prides itself for their food, wine and culture. In France, the different regions can almost represent different countries. The Loire Valley offers castles and history, Bordeaux and Burgundy are popular wine regions, South West of France with Biarritz and the outskirts boarding with Spain offer Spanish influence and the Alpine regions offer many opportunities to be active!
What the usual lead times for groups? Tips for best value for money?
High season is May – June because of the major events and September – October is the fairs season. The months of January and February in Paris offer the best value for money. During this low season Paris is less crowded and planners can negotiate better rates with the suppliers. An insider tip for planners is not to announce the date before checking availability of price. Rather to give the price so the hotel can give the best available date for it. Outside of Paris, some regions are attractive in winter (low season), such as Côte d’Azur.
Lead times are getting shorter and shorter. The market is very competitive so Convention Bureau and suppliers should be very reactive.
What are the pitfalls to avoid when organising corporate hospitality for the first time in France?
There are few things to watch out for. The package should suits group needs, meet objectives and the agency must be accredited. The agency should deliver the corporate hospitality package in full and is not selling fake tickets.
Photos by Splento