Survey: Public Perception Forcing Cost-of-Meetings Increase

Because they're worried about perceived corporate excess, companies are passing up attractive meeting packages in accessible locations in order to meet in destinations that appear more conservative but cost more money. That's according to the Alexandria, Va.-based Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE), which has surveyed its members about the impact of the economic climate on their meeting policies and procedures.

ACTE said the survey results, which were released yesterday, indicate a "radical departure" in the way that companies purchase and procure business travel, from a philosophy focused on cost effectiveness to one that's focused on political correctness.

"Paying higher rates and spending more time getting to a business location when less expensive and more easily accessible alternative locations are available will quickly deplete a corporate meetings budget, thus wasting funds that could provide someone with a job," ACTE Executive Director Susan Gurley said in a statement. "Not only is this bad business from the standpoint of a corporate balance sheet, but it is also bad business for the travel and hospitality industry."

According to the ACTE survey, 60 percent of business travel managers said their company would avoid a perceived resort location like Las Vegas in order to meet in a less leisure-oriented destination and avoid negative publicity, even if the latter's rates were more competitive.

Meanwhile, although 58 percent of survey respondents said suitability and price were key factors in choosing a meeting site, 38 percent also cited public and media perception.

Because of the current meetings climate—which has been soured by public criticism of legitimate meetings and events, inspired by those held in resort locations by recipients of federal economic aid—ACTE said millions or even billions of dollars in the U.S. meetings market could be lost as an unintended consequence of reigning in "corporate excess." To reverse the negative trend, it's counting on its members to support smart business travel policies and procedures.

"There does not appear to be a legislative response that will satisfy this issue," Gurley said. "The answer will lie in promoting the kind of business travel management techniques and controls that assist in growing business under difficult economic constraints. The sooner we deal with this, the better off the industry will be."