The travel industry is just going to have to deal with it, business travel as we once knew it is probably dead and buried. Airlines, hotels, rental car companies, and a host of other travel related industries are begging business people to fly the business skies again, through high powered ad campaigns by Edelman, British Airways and others cling to past glory – looking back rather than ahead. Studies show, it ain’t happening any time soon, and maybe never like before. Some reports hold out hope that industry ad campaigns and PR ticks might breathe some life back into this segment of the industry, but for now at least, it looks like a long shot.
Business travelers have pumped as much revenue into the travel industry over the years as just about and other group. From rental cars to hotel rooms, everything in between, the business traveler has tended to spend more, as well as being a more reliable contingent of the travel metric. Business travelers have tended to book their flights at the last minute for one thing, propping up the bottom line for carriers with seats left to sell. But, with emerging virtual meeting technologies, and their obvious advantages, combined with corporate “belt tightening” this segment of the industry will likely never be the same. Why? It is simply not efficient.
According to one of the world’s most relied upon travel resources, Advito, 2010 and even the protracted future may never see pre-recession business travel as it once was. Their report for 2010 (down-loadable PDF) reveals at best a “guarded” outlook for this segment. Their research and reason seems rock solid, taking into consideration such variables as; mobile technologies, social networking, barriers to business travel (swine flu), trip models and other key travel management factors. Perhaps the biggest component being, the many advantages to digital conferencing.
Put simply, though the travel industry is going to some lengths to suggest “face to face” meetings are somehow almost mandatory, any corporate executive who believes this in this day and time might as well get out the hangman’s noose and the stool. From environmental constrictions (PR value of otherwise) to bottom line feasibility, filling the friendly skies with suits and briefcases just makes no sense any more. Think of it from a business standpoint;
Business A big wig wants a face to face. Big wig B says; “Sure, fly right over. On arrival BWB says to himself and his team; These guys are not fiscally “with it”, we could have done this over the Internet.”
Call it a trend to start with if you must, but cranking out aviation fuel all over the continents to sell more iPhones ain’t going to happen. At least not for the competitive sort. Sure, certain types of gravitous meetings will always be better carried out “one on one”, but unless dirigibles come back soon, business travel will never be business travel as usual. It never should have been. But, airlines and other travel segments are going down hard. They have even engaged the entrepreneurial equivalent of Mommy Blogs to help ramrod business people to come back. The video below promoting business travel may be more telling than British Airways knew.
The Advito data suggest the rise of the corporate Web, and the utilization of these emerging Internet technologies is a great deal more than a trend. The use of TripIt, for sharing itineraries, as long with more in depth functionality, will pretty much revolutionize the way business think about interaction. We know of even more deeply functional technologies being developed for the travel industry through our own efforts in consulting with the travel startup Stay.com.
Suffice it to say, for now, that travel has yet to see a completely integrated and functional online conduit. So, in a very real way, bad news on one end of the travel spectrum, may in the end be good news for the industry – something of a paradigm shift has been needed for some time any way. Even Edelman PR may not be able to pull a rabbit out of the hat for British Airways and others.