At the recent Accor Annual Masters of Travel 2022 panel, participants said in-person meetings are coming back, but in today’s environment, they will have to be both mindful and meaningful to make it worth the time, energy and carbon footprint.
In-person meetings are coming back, but the days of just traveling to an event because you can use some time out of the office or would like to check out the destination are over, at least for now. Delegates don’t want to travel to a meeting or event unless it’s both meaningful and mindful, said delegates a recent Annual Masters of Travel 2022 panel of European business leaders from 10 key business sectors, conducted by Accor Hotels. This is at least in part due to a growing awareness of the carbon footprint involved in traveling to an event — “Leaving home has to be meaningful and deliver tangible benefits to justify its carbon footprint,” according a report on the Master of Travel panel’s results. “Travel must be business critical, if it’s not cost- and carbon-prohibitive.”
And more events now are business-critical than ever. One thing that makes in-person events meaningful is their effectiveness in getting business done. According to research by Accor discussed at the Masters of Travel event, one in-person meeting drives three times the revenue of one online event for participants — business people say they believe they will average 23% more deals a year when they are able to speak to their contacts face to face, rather than using only video or phone conferencing options. That’s because it is harder to focus and make meaningful connections via an online portal than when you are face to face. In fact, says Accor, 47% of workers say they miss social interaction with colleagues and associates.
Once they’re on site, however, participants also want to linger longer outside of the event itself. This means the bleisure trend of blending a leisure extension onto the front or back end of a business event, which was already gaining ground pre-pandemic, is now growing even more rapidly. As one panel participant said, “A one-night stay is now considered a premium and we encourage our workers to see if they can achieve more by staying longer” or blending a business trip with a leisure add-on. This also helps justify the carbon footprint of traveling to an event, panelists said.
But that doesn’t mean hybrid meetings will be left along the post-pandemic wayside like discarded face masks. Sophie Hulgard, Senior Vice President Sales Northern Europe, Accor, who co-hosted the panel, said she believes about a fifth of business meetings that would have been held in the past will not be held moving forward, either because they can be done virtually or weren’t essential to begin with. In fact, the panel itself was held as a hybrid, with in-person participants meeting in Frankfurt, Germany, and others joining online through the use of Encore technology and Microsoft Teams. But the tech used has to be seamless — we need to get rid of poor sound quality and video glitches, which panelists said were “as harmful to successful business encounters as the difficulties some encounter in not being able to see another person’s body language or engage in small talk to make a more meaningful connection.”
Like meetings, the technology available at the group host hotel must be meaningful, not just tech for the sake of tech, panelists concurred. “Who wants to use an iPad to switch on a lamp?” What they do appreciate as meaningful are things like digital key technology that allows guests to check in via an app. “The objective is not no contact with staff, but better contact,” the report states. “It goes back to meaningful travel — why spend 20 minutes queuing to get a plastic (environmentally unfriendly) keycard when you could use that time” to do more interesting and meaningful activities. As one panelist pointed out, “We want to know we can still spend time with a real person.”
Full results of the panel are available from Accor’s website.