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2010.02.18

Fear Virtual Meetings, Events and Experiences? Travel Industry Execs Ponder the Trend

This week I was invited to serve on a panel on ROI at the NBTA Masters Program. The Masters is a very prestigious forum for corporate travel executives and major travel suppliers. Participation is limited to 100 each and they represent quite an impressive group of leaders.

MastersProgramNBTA Day One was high impact. Charles Petruccelli, President, Global Travel Services, American Express Company, presented an opening session entitled Getting Back in the Game. The message is poignant. The travel industry has experienced the sharpest decline in recent history over the past 18 months. Petrucelli believes that travel will play a key role in the recovery of the global economy. I agree.

Edward Walter, President and CEO, Host Hotels & Resorts, provided a very candid review of the past 18 months and an outlook for 2010. In short, the last 18 months was as bad as you may have thought for hotels, maybe worse. The industry was in a freefall and only recently hit the bottom. Prospects for 2010 are encouraging but it will most likely be 2011, 2012 and perhaps even 2013 before you can expect robust growth and health in that sector. 

Petrucelli referenced indiscriminate cuts that were made in travel budgets. In many cases, businesses were driven to virtual meeting and event solutions, because they had to. And that’s where it got interesting.

An hour was devoted to a panel discussion on virtual experiences versus face-to-face or physical meetings. There was a lot of curiosity and I could sense confusion and skepticism.

I think I understand. Following Walter’s overview of the dismal hotel outlook, the topic of virtual meetings came up in Q&A. He stated “they scare the death out of me. But I better figure them out.”

It’s interesting, next week there is a summit devoted to the use of virtual experiences. Check it out here

It’s a physical, face-to-face event.

More in my next post on figuring out virtual experiences.

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