In-Person Meetings Crucial but Lack C-Level Support

Business man in a suite and tie walking in an airport with a large yellow sign saying follow me in the background

Skift Take

A new report revealed that in-person meetings may be misunderstood at an executive level and subsequently underfunded.

Harvard Business Review (HBR) has released a new research report commissioned and led by American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT) that makes the research-based case for businesses to invest in travel and in-person meetings.

The report highlights the importance of business travel to build trust, strengthen company culture, and nurture client relations. It also reveals shortfalls in support and funding for travel programs at an executive level. It is based on a survey of 425 business travel decision-makers located across the globe.

The Importance of Meeting In-Person

Business travel is crucial for both connecting with colleagues and meeting with customers. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of respondents (88%) believe that meeting in person is critical to maintaining long-term and positive connections among company staff. Somewhat surprisingly, that percentage dropped slightly (84%) when asked about facilitating a positive rapport with customers.

“While there is a return to business travel, this report demonstrates the dangers of not maintaining face-to-face relationships with customers, workers, and business partners. Collaboration, innovation, and relationships suffer,” said Alex Clemente, managing director of analytic services at HBR.

While the challenges resulting from a lack of in-person meetings became more evident following the pandemic and the widespread shift to remote and hybrid work models, 71% of respondents said that their companies realize the importance of meeting in person, specifically for the purpose of spurring innovation through brainstorming.

“The results from returning to business travel have been clear. We’re finally getting together with no limitations. You’re just more invested and able to create more opportunities and come up with new ideas because you’ve created personal connections,” said Colleen Kearney, global corporate travel leader at RTX – an aerospace and defense company based in the U.S.

Lacking Support from Leadership

The survey also revealed a gap in the percentage of respondents who reported the effectiveness of business travel as being “very important” while revealing the actual percentage of support in key areas for these programs was, in reality, much lower. 

“The survey findings show strong awareness of business travel’s critical role in connecting people, driving growth and supporting success,” said Amex GBT president Andrew Crawley. However, 78% of respondents reported adequate funding as being essential for travel programs, and only 33% reported that aspect as being a reality at their companies. 

“While many companies understand business travel is a strategic investment, it is also clear they see scope for enhancing the value and effectiveness of their travel programs,” Crawley said. This was apparent in terms of support from executive leadership. Almost all decision-makers (82%) said would be ideal, but less than half (49%) reported that actually being the case.

The report also highlights a gap when it comes to aligning with the overall business strategy. In total, 80% said that successful travel programs needed to align with a company’s overall business strategy, but only 44% said that was actually the case.