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 twice, in late summer and early fall, to get a handle on changes in the business travel environment due to the economic downturn.

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

  1. emphasize the advance purchase of air tickets (60.81 percent)

  2. encourage or require less air travel (55 percent)

  3. send fewer employees to conferences (51 percent)

  4. strengthen mandates/enforcement of travel policies (50 percent)

  5. drive people to travel alternatives (e.g., Web-based meetings) (49 percent)

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

Drilling down on the travel alternatives issue, NBTA asked members about various categories of e-meetings. Three out of four respondents say they're seeing an increase in teleconferencing and Web-based meetings, and 57 percent report an uptick in videoconferencing. Of those who saw an increase, about 80 percent said the new e-meetings are an alternative to travel.

NBTA's complete survey, “Impact of High Oil Prices & Economic Downturn on Business Travel,” is available to members and nonmembers at www.nbta.org.