Asia Pacific Updates

Face time trumps virtual meetings: CWT study

Tangible business benefits for physical meetings, but confusion lingers over how to measure ROI for business travel spend.

Face-to-face meetings are here to stay. A study conducted by global travel management company Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) and recruitment specialists Ambition found that more than three quarters (78 per cent) of 1,100 business executives surveyed prefer meeting in-person to using technology-enabled communications such as video conferencing.

Nearly one in four (23 per cent) respondents surveyed across Asia Pacific said face-to-face meetings help them build stronger, more meaningful relationships.

Seventeen per cent said they prefer to read people’s body language and facial expressions when in a meeting, while 15 per cent said they find it easier to get their point across and be persuasive when face-to-face.

The 22 per cent of respondents who said they prefer virtual meetings expressed time and cost concerns as the main reasons; 27 per cent said it is cheaper than travelling to attend meetings, and 35 per cent said that saving time was a key benefit.

The vast majority (92 per cent) of respondents, however, agreed there are tangible business benefits to face-to-face meetings that outweigh any cost savings achieved through technology-enabled meetings.

Despite this, budget restrictions are the most commonly cited hurdle, with nearly two in five (38 per cent) respondents saying this prevents them from meeting face-to-face. Instating a travel freeze towards the end of the year is an annual ritual at many companies – it’s frequently used as a relatively painless mechanism to save money.

CWT’s managing director for Asia Pacific, Bindu Bhatia, says a company-wide travel freeze may be short-sighted. “It can impede your employees from doing their jobs effectively, hurting the bottom line and your long-term business strategy. Business travel has long been viewed as a controllable or discretionary spend, when in fact there are many instances where it should be looked upon as a strategic investment to fuel business growth.”

Measuring ROI remains a struggle in APAC

Only 28 per cent of the respondents said their companies measure the return-on-investment (ROI) on their business travel spend. Nearly half (47 per cent) said their companies don’t track the ROI on their business travel, while the remaining 25 per cent were not sure.

CWT’s managing director for Australia & New Zealand, Michael Ryan, says one of the key reasons companies struggle to measure ROI is because travel data is still viewed in a vacuum. “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.

“By combining travel data with HR, corporate finance and other data sources, you can begin to understand the true cost of a business trip versus the value it generates. For example, overlaying travel data with finance data can show you the correlation between travel and revenue growth, and you can see what impact cutting the travel budget for a particular department would have on the business,” adds Ryan.

The complete “Gain the Advantage with Face-to-Face Meetings” research paper can be downloaded here.