Compelling need for in-person meetings but 1 in 5 'may have gone forever'

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There is still a compelling need for in-person meetings, but post-pandemic business travel must be business-critical to justify the financial and carbon cost, according to a new report by Accor.

The Business of Travel report, based on a panel of European business leaders across 10 industries, says that 20 per cent of business meetings "may have gone forever" and concludes that in the future “business trips will be fewer but more purposeful”.

It also found that workers expect to make 25 per cent more revenue through face-to-face meetings than virtual ones. And in-person meetings also have “a range of wellbeing advantages including much-missed social interaction with colleagues and associates”.

The report also highlights the speeding up of virtual meeting technology, and individuals’ ability to use it, as a silver lining of the pandemic.

“When guests can’t be in the room where it happens they expect glitch-free technology that is easy and intuitive to set up and delivers crystal-clear sound quality and video,” it says. “Hybrid meetings, with some on-site and some attending virtually, are now the norm.”

One delegate acknowledged that it’s harder to make meaningful connections in hybrid meetings because “it's difficult to stay focused and pay attention when you can't interact with the other people in the room”.

The panel also highlighted a major shift in priorities, with financial budgets “being replaced by carbon ones”.

“Offsetting is no longer enough, and our hotel partners need to prove they are actively reducing our footprint,” said one delegate.

Sophie Hulgard, senior vice president sales Northern Europe, Accor, said: “Twenty per cent of business meetings may have gone forever, to be replaced by virtual equivalents or the realisation that they simply weren’t necessary in the first place.

“Instead we are seeing the emergence of a much more purposeful business travel sector where companies want to maximise the value of each trip to reconnect teams, grow culture, strategise, close deals, and strengthen bonds with employees.

“Business travel enables real connections and has incredible power and value, not just in financial terms but – in the new post-pandemic mindset – increased employee satisfaction and wellbeing and therefore loyalty to employers.

“But the future of business travel must banish inconsequential trips and replace them with business-critical travel that is sustainably planned and delivers for the employee, the employer and the planet.”

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