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The case for abandoning corporate travel in favour of virtual meetings is both financial and medical. But are the traditional challenges faced by corporate travellers (like jet lag, fatigue and poor diet) able to be overcome by modern travel management?

Frequent corporate travel has been associated with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, high radiation and accelerated ageing. It’s clear the notion that corporate travellers are putting their health at risk has grounds for concern.

Further, the persistent threat of global terrorism has left corporate travellers more anxious about their travel than they were in 2015.

Below we explore whether health and safety concerns have the potential to make the time-tested business trip a thing of the past. We also explore whether international relationships can be cemented through virtual meetings alone, and what impact this would have on the bottom line.

 

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The State of Virtual Meetings

The web conferencing technology market is set to reach $3.6 billion USD by 2020. Industry juggernauts like Adobe, Microsoft, Uber Conference and Cisco are transforming the way we do business, and the number of new entrants to the web conferencing game shows no signs of slowing.

In 2015, video conferencing use surged, with one survey finding more than half of executives use the technology every week. 

However, with global business travel spend forecast to reach a staggering $1.6 Trillion USD by 2020, it seems that for the moment, businesses are satisfied with using virtual meetings in conjunction with in-person engagements.  

A study published by the Academy of Management, titled ‘Executive Travel Stress: Perils of the Road Warrior’ notes that travel budgets are often the prime target of cost cutting measures. 

“The increasingly competitive business environment has led many companies to try to cut costs, and travel budgets are often targeted for those costs,” it reads.

Interestingly, the same study, published in 2000, cites videoconferencing as a cost-effective alternative to corporate travel. The discussion of in-person vs. online has evidently been a persistent theme in the travel management industry, but the virtual meetings market is gaining momentum.

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Can the Handshake Be Replaced?

Travel spend can be prohibitive for businesses of all sizes. Forgoing an international business trip in favour of a virtual meeting can present significant immediate savings.

However, businesses can’t afford them.

An Oxford Economics report found that a business would lose 17% in profits within the first year of abandoning corporate travel. Furthermore, the study found that 40% of executives say prospective customers are converted into new customers through in-person meetings. This number drops to just 16% without an in-person meeting.

The critical importance of nonverbal communication in relationship building is well established. One UCLA study found that as much as 93% of communication effectiveness hinges on non-verbal clues.

Opt for virtual meetings over in-person and you’re limiting your communication effectiveness by 93%.

The attractive ROI of corporate travel and the superior effectiveness of in person meetings, combined with an increasingly globalised economy, means corporate travel remains a necessity in the digital age.

 

Combatting the Health Impact of Corporate Travel

The health impacts of business travel cited by the Harvard Business Review should be taken seriously by travel managers. Using an effective travel management platform is the key to conducting business safely overseas, and with minimal effect on the health of employees.

66.6% of international travellers cite flight delays and cancellations as their main source of travel stress. Travellers also said that limited cabin space and uncooperative passengers were significant in-flight stressors, damaging their productivity once they land.

While travel managers can look to economy seating to reduce travel spend, investing in the comfort of employees is an investment in their productivity. With a streamlined management platform, managers are empowered to locate savings in other areas of the itinerary and ensure the health and wellbeing of employees isn’t compromised.

Managers who also prioritise the comfort of travel teams by encouraging bleisure travel and jet lag recovery time before returning to work, do their bit in minimising the health impacts of corporate travel.

Furthermore, the rising popularity of wearable technology that monitors the health of travelling employees assists corporate travellers in keeping their health in check. 

For more information on the trends that are redefining business travel, download your free eGuide, '5 Corporate Travel Trends to Watch in 2017' below:

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