Meeting with business partners and colleagues across the globe is vital for business. But how you go about it is rapidly changing. Innovation management researcher Paul Levy predicts physical business travel may be on its way out, replaced by virtual business travel that lets you meet, greet and collaborate without the need to leave your office.
PHYSICAL TRAVEL BUMMERS
Levy notes that many businesses have already decided to decrease their company travel time. Rising internal expenses, coupled with the rising costs of hotel and airfare, are partly to blame. Other factors include the ever-growing compliance and safety concerns. While the business travel market is showing signs of resurging, Levy argues it may not be resurging to its former glory. Nor does it necessarily need to, thanks to innovative ways to communicate.
VIRTUAL TRAVEL BENEFITS
Video conferencing has made great strides, with an increased realism in virtual meetings that makes participants feel as if they are actually in the room with one another. Known as telepresencing, these virtual meetings are better for the business budget as well as the environment. A report on CDP.net says video conferencing could save companies in the US and UK some $19 billion while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 5.5 million tonnes.
More than 50 percent of US businesses already encourage employees to bring their own devices, while 66 percent are investing in mobile strategies for their employees. External communication services range from the free solutions, such as Skype, to the pricey, customized telepresencing solutions that can get as elaborate as desired.
Levy says virtual travel gives people real-time communication and sharing options that can benefit the business world as well as the world at large. But he also notes until greater advances are made, physical face-to-face meetings are still a must for certain situations.
PHYSICAL AND VIRTUAL COMBINED
Physical meetings can be seen as a sign of respect and power. They remain warranted for top-level contract signings, strategy discussions and partnership formations. Everyday strategies, product designs and ongoing progress can often be discussed in the virtual realm. And it’s already possible to combine the two at certain airports, train stations and on the train where you can have a virtual meeting on your way to the physical one.
While the current culture is a combination of this middle ground, Levy clearly sees the landscape shifting in favor of the virtual meeting down the line. This may be a boon or bust for the business travel sector, depending on how well it adapts to the changing needs.
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