Face-to-Face Preferred, But Technology Improving For Virtual Meetings

According to the October 2011 edition of The Wire from AirPlus, 59% of corporate travel managers report their company‘s travel budget this year is the same or greater than pre-recession levels, though respondents to an AirPlus survey in 2009 were taking several steps to decrease travel as technological advances were making travel alternatives more readily accessible and decreased travel budgets were making them more desirable. 81% had increased teleconferencing, 71% had implemented Web conferencing technology and 38% were using specialized virtual conferencing technology such as telepresence. 

Regardless of the reason for choosing travel alternatives, the professionals who responded to the survey were decidedly ambivalent about the effectiveness of such decisions. 68% said remote conferencing is “sometimes“ as effective as meeting in person. Another significant group was even less convinced of the effectiveness of remote conferencing: 6% said it was “never“ as effective as in-person meetings while 15% said that was “rarely“ the case. Only 12% were firmly in favor, saying remote conferencing was “almost always“ as effective. 

Effectiveness Of Remote Conferencing Vs. Meeting In Person 

Remote as Effective?

% of Respondents

Almost always








Source: The Wire from AirPlus USA, November 2011

The current study shows that the concept of virtual meetings has become firmly engrained in corporate culture,however Only 1% of those surveyed said that virtual meetings have decreased as in-person meetings and travel increased in the past year.

  • 32.4% said virtual meetings have increased in the past year, but they have not replaced in-person meetings
  • 32.4% said virtual meetings have increased as a replacement to in-person meetings and travel
  • 32.9% say that the volume has remained steady

While champions of travel alternatives tout the beneficial effects on employee quality of life and corporate social responsibility, these are not the most compelling reasons for most respondents. For the majority of respondents, the most compelling reason for travel alternatives is the increased cost of travel, ranked by 63% as the mo“urgent“ reason for turning to travel alternatives. “Decreased budgets” was the next most cited urgent reason, with significantly fewer respondents, 32%, ranking it the most urgent.

Urgency Ranking For Turning To Travel Alternatives (1, Most Urgent; 4, Least Urgent) 

Reason For Travel Alternative

Average Rating 

Increased travel costs


Decreased budgets


Employee quality of life


Corporate social responsibility


Source: The Wire from AirPlus USA, November 2011

Despite the lukewarm opinions of travel alternatives, new innovations mean they are likely to continue to be viable for certain kinds of in-person meetings; most notably internal corporate meetings, and those with well-established client relationships. In addition to corporate-owned systems, more widescale deployment of technology is increasing the viability of hybrid meetings, those with a mix of in-person and remote attendees. Hotel chains have been installing telepresence rooms at properties around the world including allowing groups to broadcast meetings to remote audiences via the internet.

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