Facing Economic Downturn, Companies Canceling Conferences, Meetings, Survey Says

In order to cope with the nation's economic downturn, corporate travel managers are finding creative ways to reduce corporate travel costs, suggests new research from the National Business Travel Association (NBTA). According to the association, increased airfares, new service charges and shrinking travel budgets have forced companies to cancel business trips, trim their conference calendar and move more meetings online.

"Travel managers are coping with the unpredictability of fuel costs, weak financial markets and the global credit crisis, and assessing the impact on their companies," NBTA President and CEO Kevin Maguire said in a statement. "Through this research, we are providing timely insight on how the business travel industry is dealing with the challenging economic landscape."

Specifically, NBTA performed two surveys of 320 corporate business travel managers over a four-month period in order to find out how they are implementing new travel management measures to cope with rising travel price tags—both in the air and on the ground.

The top five things they're doing to contain air travel costs, according to the survey:

1. Emphasizing advance purchase of air tickets
2. Encouraging or requiring less air travel
3. Sending fewer employees to conferences
4. Strengthening mandates/enforcement of travel policies
5. Driving people to travel alternatives (such as Web-based meetings)

Meanwhile, to contain ground transportation costs, they're:

1. Refueling before returning car rental
2. Sharing ground transportation costs with other employees
3. Moving to smaller, less expensive car rentals
4. Renting more fuel efficient cars (non-hybrids)
5. Using more public transportation when traveling

"As we approach 2009 with a sober economic outlook, NBTA is doing its part to help business travel consumers understand the importance of streamlining travel needs and implementing clear cost-cutting techniques," NBTA Executive Director and COO Bill Connors said. "Businesses that strategically manage their travel during these challenging times will be better positioned for success."

NBTA survey respondents shared not only cost-cuttings strategies, but also explanations. More than 50 percent of them, for instance, said that new airline fees are impacting their planning, encouraging them to travel less frequently and even eliminate all non-essential corporate travel. Those same respondents indicated that domestic trips are now costing them between $140 and $175 more than at the end of 2007, while international trips are costing them between $315 and $400 more.

For more information about the NBTA research, or to obtain a full copy of the report, visit www.nbta.org/Research/Surveys.