Despite advances made in technology communications, an overwhelming 78% of businesspeople surveyed by Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) prefer in-person meetings.
This is because tangible business benefits from face-to-face meetings are believed to far outweigh cost savings, such as more meaningful relationships (23%) but budget restraints remain a key hurdle. The survey was carried out on 1,160 executives in APAC by CWT and recruitment specialist Ambition.
Because face-to-face meetings often require travel, one restriction is the travel freeze imposed by many companies towards the end of the year, a practice deemed to be “short-sighted” by Bindu Bhatia, managing director, APAC, CWT. A calculation provided by hotel brand Crowne Plaza shows that businesses globally may be missing out on 24% of additional revenue because they are not investing enough in face-to-face meetings.
Instead of a blanket ban on travel, Bhatia suggested a renewed focus on targeted actions to limit expenses, such as with the type of travel and departments that are not directly related to business growth. “It’s best to define essential and non-essential travel parameters and work from there. At the same time, looking at employees’ travel purchase behaviours—such as how far in advance they make their bookings—can also cut costs,” said Bhatia.
Yet, travel and meeting spend must not be cut at the expense of bottom lines. Changes in travel policies, such as moving travellers from economy to business class may have an impact on productivity. This is because they get the chance to put in work while flying in business class, which can help to cut back on lost work hours for the organisation.
This imperative requires companies to be more stringent in tracking ROIs from business travels. Surprisingly (or not), 47% of the respondents said their companies do not track ROIs from business travels while 25% said they were uncertain.
Michael Ryan, managing director, Australia & New Zealand, CWT, pointed out that travel data is still viewed in a vacuum, making it harder for companies to measure ROI. “Understanding the ROI on business travel means looking beyond just flight and hotel costs. Business travel should be viewed in the context of operations, revenue streams and human impact.”
Combining travel data with other sources such as HR and corporate finance may help, Ryan suggested. By overlaying travel data with finance data, for example, businesses can see the correlation between travel and revenue, as well as the impact on the latter from travel budget cuts for a particular department.
Meanwhile, employee productivity can be assessed by overlaying travel and HR data. A good travel policy is a magnet for talent. More than three in five (61%) respondents said they factor in a company’s travel policy when evaluating a new job opportunity.