By Graeme Kemlo

Corporate hospitality is one of the key pillars of business events and it will be back in Melbourne from next week at the Australian Open tennis… albeit with a few COVID safe adjustments.

And whether it is a private suite high in the major arenas to reward corporate achievers, build customer relations or just getting the team together, there’s something for everyone. Visitors can gather as colleagues or friends in a group of seats, known as a “fan pod”, socially-distanced in the main stands from other pods, and as we go to press, limited tickets are still available; digital tickets that allow contract tracing and reduce shared contact.

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tilley says a total of 390,000 people (about half the usual crowd) will be able to attend the event, which starts Monday and continues day and night through to the men’s final on Sunday February 21, 2021.

Players are out of their 14-day quarantine, but are getting little sympathy from Melburnians who recently endured 112 days’ home detention.

But there is joy amongst the industry teams who supply food and beverages as well as hospitality marquees and equipment, not to mention full-time and freelance staff.

Earlier Tennis Australia said it would cost them up to $30 million – twice the usual budget – to ensure a safe 2021 tournament, including charter flights and player quarantine. Melbourne Park has been divided into three zones, each with live experiences, food and beverage service and, of course, the tennis.  You must stay in your zone and it is a cashless event.

If you are not privy to one of the permanent private suites in Rod Laver, Margaret Court or John Cain arenas, from $139 per person you could get the VIP treatment, more for finals matches. Billed as “corporate-worthy luxury, without the corporate prices” and selling fast, this is a Super Suite in the newly-named John Cain Arena.

You get an air-conditioned lounge behind a glass wall facing the court, plus two rows of cinema-style seats on your private balcony in front of the glass so you can hear every serve (or grunt).  Food and drinks are sold at your own pop-up café from 11 am through to the end of the day’s play.

We wonder whether this could be the promised new-normal?  Pay a bit more for an Insta-worthy experience… it might be good value just for exclusive access to the private bathroom.