The latest survey from the Business Travel Coalition, conducted April 15 and 16, found that the majority of corporate travel and purchasing managers believe the severe acute respiratory syndrome really is as bad as it sounds in the newspapers. Sixty-five percent said they didn’t think the media was overreacting to the SARS epidemic, and 61 percent now have banned travel to Asian countries as a result, up from 27 percent just weeks ago. Only 1 percent said they were making no SARS-related travel policy decisions.

To replace travel-related business, respondents said they were increasing their use of videoconferencing (67 percent), teleconferencing (65 percent), Web conferencing (43 percent), and webcasting (28 percent).

For employees who work in Asian countries, policies included banning travel among Asian destinations, and not allowing employees based in affected countries to travel to company sites in other areas. Twenty-four percent said they are requiring employees who are returning to the U.S. from a trip to Asia to work from home for a period of time before coming into the office, and 18 percent are demanding that these employees get a clean bill of health before heading back to work.

When asked how the airline response has been to the SARS concern, a whopping 66 percent said airlines had not provided sufficient information or were dismissive of the issue. Only 34 percent rated the airlines as concerned and proactive when it comes to SARS. As one respondent summed it up, "The airlines are concerned about their reduced revenues, not about the welfare of their passengers." Still, none of the 137 participating organizations reported an increase in the use of charter jets, which indicates that the main concerns are about SARS on the ground, not in the air.