One of our NextStageologists has been involved in some travel industry research. Originally, I thought this merely an interesting trifle but a recent conversation with a friend in the conference business brought it to the fore.
The research involved over 1,000 businesses, all different sizes, all US based, who regularly send people to business and industry conferences.
But not anymore. Not this year (2009), anyway.
The study was performed in January ’09 for a consortium of online travel services and touched airline, hotel, retreat, conference centers, caterers, resorts, travel boards, tourism boards, vacation planners and others. The results affect onlines such as Orbitz, Travelocity, Hotels.com and the like.
“People are not traveling. They’re cutting back their budgets and finding alternate solutions to conferences and meetings, whether its a podcast, webinar or conference calling,” was the major take-wawy according to this NextStageologist. “Companies will be focusing their resources to office-based interaction structures. Everybody’s trimming their travel budgets.”
Again, I thought this an interesting blip more than a recognizable datum until talking with a friend in the seminar/conference/event industry who shared that his company is already having to rethink their conference plans for 2009-2010.
What Conference Companies Need To Do
An almost universal response to “What could conference groups do to lure you back?” was a caveated “Nothing.” The caveat was to make more of their conference content available online, to turn the “after-market” into the real market.
The kicker was that there’s not a lot that’s presented at conferences that companies would willingly purchase as downloadable content. This means the quality and actionability of what is downloadable has to go up exponentially.
Another near universal gem was that larger companies would rather bring in a week’s worth of experts internally to work with them specifically on projects — creating an in-house event or conference, if you will — rather than send a select team to an external conference with (now) increasingly weakened networking opportunities. Such in-house conferences, everyone agreed, would be incredibly time and cost efficient and may become the standard even after the economy shakes out.
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