London 2012: Less than 40% of VIP hospitality sold

With 300 days to go before London 2012, just a third of on-site hospitality tickets for the Games have been sold.

But despite the financial downturn, the company with sole corporate hospitality rights inside Olympic venues remains bullish about sales.

Prestige Ticketing won a tender by Olympic organisers Locog for some 90,000 tickets - about one per cent of the total allocation.

The British public has bought most of the 6.6m tickets available by ballot.

In contrast, more than 60% of the company's deals are still on offer.

The company would not disclose how much it paid for the tickets, nor its expected profit, citing commercially sensitive information.

And, as London 2012 will be the first Olympics to have on-site corporate hospitality, it is not possible to compare figures with previous Games.

Image caption Sir Steve Redgrave said Olympics VIP hospitality had lagged behind other sporting events

But industry insiders have told the BBC they would expect a much higher proportion of packages to have been sold after nearly seven months of sales.

In the much-criticised public ballot for tickets earlier this year, top-tier tickets at the Olympic ceremonies cost £2,012, with the best seats at athletics events going for £750.

The cheapest of Prestige Ticketing's deals cost £495, while the most expensive £4,500 packages are being sold in batches of 10 and secure seats at the ceremonies or prized athletics and cycling finals.

Sell-out events

Corporate guests enjoying on-site hospitality can expect:

  • "Best seats in the house" for Olympic events
  • Champagne and canapé reception
  • Four-course lunch with unlimited "best of British" food and wines
  • Travelcards for London's transport network, although hundreds of parking spaces will also be available

At the Olympic Park, Prestige Ticketing is building a £7.5m three-storey pavilion catering for 3,000 guests at a time, just 70m (77 yards) from the main stadium.

Hospitality venues will also be located at Greenwich Park, North Greenwich Arena, Horse Guards Parade, Eton Dorney and Wimbledon.

The economic downturn meant traditional customers in finance and advertising had been joined by companies in sectors like construction, energy and resources, said the company.

While corporate packages at the women's hockey final had been the first to sell out, there had also been strong demand for the tennis at Wimbledon, rowing at Eton Dorney and equestrian events in Greenwich, said the company.

Prestige Ticketing's Marketing Director Tony Barnard said he was confident other packages would be sold as companies settled their budgets for the next year.

"We're seeing a significant increase in sales activity," he told the BBC. "The ballots for tickets have ended so people know that if they want to go, there's only one way left to go."

Olympic opportunity

Prof Simon Chadwick, Director of the Centre for the International Business of Sport at Coventry University, said that while the financial crisis had hit the corporate hospitality industry in recent years, the exceptional nature of London 2012 would allow it to "transcend prevailing economic conditions".

In a study commissioned by Prestige Ticketing, Prof Chadwick predicted that companies buying hospitality packages - at an estimated cost of £1.45bn - would make a return of more than 12% on their investment.

But he cautioned this figure was based on intangible factors such as extra business being generated through goodwill and strengthened business relationships.

Five-time Olympic gold medal winner Sir Steve Redgrave said London 2012 had a unique opportunity to put Olympics hospitality on a par with that at other international events.

"I've been invited to go as a guest with other sponsors of [previous] Olympic Games after I retired, and you're looked after well, but not quite as well as at some of the other major sporting events," he said.

Prestige is one of three official providers for hospitality packages, but has exclusive rights to Olympics venue hospitality.

Thomas Cook reportedly paid Locog more than £20m for 200,000 tickets to sell as part of exclusive travel and accommodation packages, while Jet Set Sports are said to have bought 100,000 tickets that are being offered as part of five star deals for overseas customers.

Locog says proceeds from hospitality ticket sales will be used to give free tickets through the Tickets For Troops scheme and the Get Set initiative for school and college students.

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