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April 26, 2019

2019 Business Travel Trends: 90% Say In-person Meetings Are Critical to Business Growth

At the end of last year, we teamed up with Skift to publish our 10 Business Travel Trends For 2019 report, outlining the industry shifts and trends that organizations need to know this year.

As part of our ongoing series highlighting sections of the full report, which left off with our last post on the growing demand for simpler business travel tools, we now take a closer look at how the need to meet in person through business travel isn’t going anywhere, despite the rise and proliferation of virtual conference technologies.

People Over Pixels

From small businesses to global enterprises, face-to-face meetings have always been a critical component of business success and growth. While virtual communication tools are now able to replace quick check-ins or regular team syncs, building and strengthening business relationships through in-person connections remains a priority.

In our TripActions’ 2018 business traveler survey, nearly everyone who responded said they believe in the power of face-to-face meetings, with 90% reporting that business travel is critical in driving company growth.

Nearly three-quarters (67%) of respondents find it more difficult to build business relationships over video, citing disconnections, technical difficulties, and the increased possibility for distraction that video calls can bring. Spending the first few minutes of a meeting figuring out why the sound isn’t working might not disrupt a weekly one-on-one, but it’s not the impression you want to make when speaking with a potential new client for the first time. What’s more, it can be challenging to pick up on body language in meetings via telephone and video conference calls.

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It makes sense then that the same TripActions business traveler survey also found that 91% of those surveyed would be willing to board a plane for the opportunity to establish, grow, or maintain a business relationship, or close a deal in person.

There are plenty of reasons an employee might want or need to travel in order to meet someone face-to-face. For instance:

Someone from the sales team wants to build rapport with a high-profile prospect over lunch.
A customer success rep wants to see the reactions in the room after presenting a detailed metrics review to her biggest account.
A dispersed group of new hires want the opportunity to train alongside each other and learn from leadership at company headquarters.
The accounting team wants to network with the movers and shakers in their space at the next big industry conference.

And that’s just for starters.

We can look to Caesars Entertainment’s chief sales officer Michael Massari, whose team books more than 16,000 meetings and events annually at Caesars’ 40-plus North American properties, for another take on the subject of face-to-face. In a recent interview with “Chief Executive” magazine, Massari shared this favorite Roman saying: “Nothing good ever happened until first there was a meeting.” He followed up by saying, “If it’s not that important, send an email. If it’s important but not mission-critical, pick up the phone. But if it’s mission-critical, go see somebody.”

The staying power of in-person meetings was a topic also touched on at this year’s ACTE Global Summit in Chicago, where Salesforce Industries’ GM Taimur Khan posed the question, “Why do we still travel?” Because it’s critical to how we run and grow our organizations, whether for internal purposes, generating new business, or maintaining an existing customer base: “We make the effort to get from Point A to Point B for meaningful engagement and to build trust.” From getting to know vendors to bringing colleagues together from different offices, we travel for work because it allows us to really connect and create stronger business relationships.

With employees eager to travel to help their companies meet business goals, it’s crucial for employers to take into account traveler needs so they can make the most of every trip. For example, by adopting consumer-grade tools and flexible policies that make it easy to book personalized flight and hotel options, and that offer 24/7 support no matter where travelers are, businesses can help their traveling employees arrive at their destinations feeling rested, focused, and prepared to make an impact.

For an ever deeper dive into how the desire to meet in person continues to fuel business travel, along with other must-read trends, read our complete 2019 Trend Report.