Recent airfare increases and the economic downturn are having an effect on corporate meetings and conventions. But how much of an effect? The National Business Travel Association surveyed its members recently to get a handle on the changes in the business travel environment.

According to the survey, of the top-five things that corporate travel managers are doing to control costs, several relate directly to meetings:

  • emphasize the advance purchase of air tickets (60.81 percent)
  • encourage or require less air travel (55 percent)
  • send fewer employees to conferences (51percent)
  • strengthen mandates/enforcement of travel policies (50 percent)
  • drive people to travel alternatives (e.g., Web-based meetings) (49 percent)

Respondents were also asked about the consequences “beyond travel” that the fuel crisis and the economic downturn were having at their companies. A reduction in meetings and company events was cited by 39 percent of the respondents. The only effects cited more often were “cost-cutting measures” and “cost-saving mentality at every level.”

Drilling down on the travel alternatives question, NBTA asked members about various categories of e-meetings. Three out of four respondents are seeing an increase in teleconferencing and Web-based meetings, and 57 percent report an uptick in video teleconferencing. In both cases, about 80 percent of the respondents said use of these e-meetings was increasing as an alternative to travel.

NBTA’s survey, “Impact of High Oil Prices & Economic Downturn on Business Travel,” was released in mid-October based on two member surveys. The first ran July through September and got responses from more than 230 companies. The second survey ran mid-September through October 10, with responses from more than 90 companies. NBTA members and nonmembers can access the full survey results at www.nbta.org.

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For more articles about how the economy is affecting meetings and conventions, visit the economy section.