Three in four Asia Pacific business executives prefer face-to-face meetings over virtual contact

11 December, 2018

More than three quarters (78%) of businesspeople prefer meeting in-person to using technology-enabled communications such as video-conferencing. These results are thanks to a new survey of over 1,100 business executives across several countries in Asia Pacific conducted by CWT and recruitment specialists Ambition.

Of those, nearly one in four (23%) said this is because it helps them build stronger, more meaningful relationships, 17% said they prefer to read people’s body language and facial expressions when in a meeting, and 15% said that they find it easier to get their point across and be persuasive face-to-face.

The 22% of respondents who said they prefer virtual meetings pointed to time and costs as the main reasons -- 27% said so because it’s cheaper than travelling to attend meetings, and 35% said that saving time was a key benefit.

Face-to-face meetings are as essential as they are expensive

The vast majority (92%) of respondents, however, agreed there are tangible business benefits to face-to-face meetings that outweigh any cost savings achieved through technology-enabled meetings. Despite this, budget restrictions were the most commonly cited hurdle, with nearly two in five (38%) respondents saying this had prevented them from meeting face-to-face. Instating a travel freeze towards the end of the year is an annual ritual at many companies – it’s frequently used as a relatively painless mechanism to save money.

Carlson Wagonlit Travel MD Bindu Bhatia said: “A company-wide travel freeze may be short-sighted. It can impede your employees from doing their jobs effectively, hurting the bottom line and your long-term business strategy. Business travel has long been viewed as a controllable or discretionary spend, when in fact there are many instances where it should be looked upon as a strategic investment to fuel business growth.”

Research by Oxford Economics USA found that for every dollar invested in business travel, companies realize $12.50 in incremental revenue.

“Instead of a blanket ban on travel, focused and targeted actions to limit travel and expense (T&E) spending – either with the type of travel, or departments that are not directly related to business growth – can provide better and more sustainable avenues of savings. It’s best to define essential and non-essential travel parameters and work from there,” said Bhatia. “At the same time, looking at employees’ travel purchase behaviours – such as how far in advance they make their bookings – can also cut costs.”

Measuring the return-on-investment of business travel

Only 28% of the respondents surveyed said their companies measure the return-on-investment (ROI) on their business travel spend. Nearly half (47%) said their companies don’t track the ROI on their business travel, while the remaining 25% were not sure.

“One of the key reasons companies struggle to measure the ROI on their travel spend is that travel data is still viewed in a vacuum,” said Carlson Wagonlit Travel MD, Australia & New Zealand Michael Ryan. “Understanding the ROI on business travel means looking beyond just flight and hotel costs. Business travel should be viewed in the context of operations, revenue streams and human impact.”

“By combining travel data with HR, corporate finance and other data sources, you can begin to understand the true cost of a business trip versus the value it generates. For example, overlaying travel data with finance data can show you the correlation between travel and revenue growth, and you can see what impact cutting the travel budget for a particular department would have on the business.”

The complete set of findings from the survey are available in the “Gain the Advantage With Face-to-Face Meetings” research paper, which can be downloaded for free here.