Report: Business travel can give competitive edge

An analysis conducted by the San Diego State University School of Hospitality & Tourism Management on behalf of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) found that in-person business travel and meetings have undeniable advantages over virtual options, and that businesses and organizations that resume business travel and meetings more quickly are likely to have a competitive edge over those that do not.

In the analysis, Carl Winston, founder/director, San Diego State University’s L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, and Dr. Lisa Cain, Florida International University Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management associate professor, also write that business travel and in-person meetings facilitate productivity, build organizational strength and foster collaboration in a way virtual interactions cannot.

“Whether organizations are looking to boost productivity, organizational strength or collaboration, they’ll be better able to achieve these goals with business travel and in-person meetings. And as America transitions from pandemic-era virtual settings to more of a ‘new normal,’ businesses and organizations that resume business travel and meetings more quickly can gain a competitive edge over those that do not,” said Winston.

Cain added, “There is a time and place for using virtual meeting platforms, but business travel and the face-to-face meetings it facilitates generate more positive outcomes for individuals, organizations, clients and customers in a way that may just be irreplaceable.”

Other key findings from the analysis:

  • COVID-19 has created a greater need for face-to-face connection that virtual-only meetings simply cannot satisfy.
  • Increased reliance on virtual meetings negatively impacts workplace culture and team building, while also hurting productivity.
  • Among millennials, the largest population in the workforce, 80% say they prefer in-person communication with their colleagues—suggesting a potential advantage in employee recruitment, retention and client relations for companies that foster face-to-face connections with coworkers and clients.

“There is no substitute for the real thing, and after the last two years of virtual work arrangements and travel restrictions, it’s time for businesses, employees and customers alike to take advantage of the unmatched value business travel and face-to-face meetings provide,” said Chip Rogers, president/CEO, AHLA.

The analysis comes as sentiment around business travel is shifting. A recent survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of AHLA found that nearly two-thirds of workers and 77% of business travelers agree that with screen time on the rise thanks to virtual and hybrid work arrangements, bringing back in-person experiences such as business trips and conferences is more important than ever.