Face-to-face deals are still best

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The Independent Online
Communications have not

altered the need for business travel, reports John Blauth

A businessman can communicate with the world without leaving his desk, thanks to modern technology. However, this has not diminished the need for face-to-face negotiations and the business travel market, as well as the travel industry in general, has been continuing to grow in the last 20 years.

A MORI survey from February this year, commissioned by Carlson Wagonlit Travel, found that 23 per cent of business travellers intend to make more business trips in the next year, 61 per cent said they would make the same amount and only 15 per cent said fewer.

The survey of 300 people involved with the business travel market also asked if the number of business trips taken would be influenced by new technology and video-conferencing: 5 per cent said very likely; 22 per cent said fairly likely; 27 per cent said not very likely; 44 per cent said not at all likely and 2 per cent had no opinion.

Richard Lovell, Group Managing Director of Carlson Wagonlit Travel commented: "Video-conferencing appears to be having little or no negative effect on volumes of business travel. It could be argued that the human side of business transactions is lost with video-conferencing. But if that technology leads to greater communications internationally, there may even be an increase in business travel as people meet to finalise deals."

Every year Business Traveller magazine carries out a survey of the travelling patterns of its readers. The latest shows 57 per cent of readers take trips to the Far East with 19 per cent of those making more than five trips to the region per year. This contrasts with 22 per cent who travelled to Eastern Europe, 28 per cent to Australasia and 32 per cent to the Middle East. Western Europe was the number one destination, with 87 per cent and the USA the second with 71 per cent of Business Traveller's readers.

On flights of up to five hours business class accounts for 42 per cent of journeys, full economy for 34 per cent and discounted (and therefore inflexible) fares 21 per cent. On flights of between five and 10 hours, 11 per cent sat in first class; 52 per cent in business class and 28 per cent in economy. On long-haul flights of over 10 hours, 19 per cent travelled first class, 51 per cent in business and 22 per cent in steerage.

Once arrived at their destination five star hotels are chosen by 33 per cent while 53 per cent plump for four star, and 12 per cent three star.

"Savings in costs and time are key factors for today's business travellers" says John Dobbs, of Hilton International Hotels. "Firms with offices in the UK and overseas are choosing to host meetings at a convenient hub and we have seen significant growth at the Hilton International hotels at Heathrow and Gatwick in this sector."