The Hotel Association of Canada recently released the results of their annual travel intentions survey. Overall it indicates a very positive year ahead for both business and leisure travelers indicating that they will be on the road more this year than they were in 2010, and well ahead of 2009.
The survey asked travelers what factors influenced these travel intentions and not surprisingly the state of the economy, the overall cost of travel, the exchange rate and gas prices were at the top the list. However, there was one factor for business travel intentions that really stood out: Video Conferencing. In 2009, 44% of business travelers indicated they would be traveling less and instead would leverage video conferencing. In 2011, only 16% cited video conferencing as a factor negatively influencing their intent to hit the road.
The drastic drop confirmed my belief that although video conferencing can replace some aspects of travel and in certain situations can make sense, it does have some notable limitations. The biggest issue is the lack of a personal touch: Regardless of how much video and audio quality improve, virtual meetings cannot bridge the “isolation” gap. This lack of personal connection is particularly acute for sales activity and forging relationships, where a simple handshake can impact performance and revenue generation.
Chris McGinnis, in a recent blog for youmustbetrippin.com quantifies this well stating that ‘the average return on investment to business travel spending is about 20-to-1, meaning that for every $1 strategically invested in business travel, businesses have seen an average of $20 in additional gross profit.”
What has your experience been with video conferencing? Will it reduce your business travel intentions in 2011?