26 May 2009
Travel buyers are viewing videoconferencing (VC) as an alternative to overseas business trips, as the pressure on spend increases in the downturn.
Eric Bailey, senior manager of travel at Microsoft, spoke at the Management Solutions Spring 2009 Corporate Travel & Expense Management Forum in London this month. He said the number of tickets issued by the company had dropped 35 per cent in the first quarter this year, compared with the same period in 2008.
VC contributed to the fall, he said. The company has also halved its business-class travel since January. Bailey explained economic and environmental pressures were factors in Microsoft's increased use of VC, and advances in technology meant using it was easier.
But VC was "not a total substitution" for travel, Bailey added, and was used in conjunction with business trips. Some employees now travelled three times a year instead of quarterly but used VC more.
Tony McGetrick, BCD Travel director of sales in the UK and Ireland, told SM that in the past year more clients had asked them to compare the cost of a trip with using VC.
The comparison was not straightforward, he said. Hire and transport costs for VC facilities could soon add up for clients without an in-house system.
Paul Tilstone, chief executive of Institute of Travel & Meetings, said he saw VC affect the industry before the downturn, with companies making savings in travel costs after investing in the technology.