Asian CTMs unsure if virtual meetings are the way forward

Sim: surprised that virtual events aren't

While online meetings and events have become the norm because of travel restrictions, corporate travel managers say more research is needed to determine if it is a long-term solution especially with T&E budgets remaining flat.

Those interviewed said they had expected cost savings going virtual but discovered that virtual platforms do not come cheap, with one commenting that the three-party cost for a local virtual meeting with about 20 attendees could be about 30 per cent higher compared to booking a venue and meeting package for a face-to-face instead.

Sim: surprised that a virtual event incurs costs that are similar to an in-person event

He continued: “Depending on whether or not a studio, producer, professional cameraman, etc are needed and the cost of the platform provider’s licence fee per meeting, we are looking at US$20,000 to US$30,000 to connect 1,000 participants in a conference.”

With T&E budgets remaining flat for 2021, he noted the likelihood of a 60/40 face-to-face/virtual meetings and events split next year, adding the only situation where the company’s clinical observation programmes and on-the-job training have to be face-to-face.

With a business critical only travel policy now in place, Jane Sim, commodity manager, ASEAN, Siemens, expects department heads to lower the budgets for T&E spend in 2021.

“Events and exhibitions are definitely a major spend in South-east Asia and Siemens has internal technology to hold events and partner meetings. But if the event content is too complex we need to work with event agencies. From first impressions, it is not going to be cheap, which also surprised me my colleagues.

“We started analysing our use of virtual meetings and events a year ago and are looking for capable partners to help us achieve total cost optimisation as constant cost-saving was the company direction even before Covid-19,” Sim shared.

Meanwhile, Adriana Nainggolan, travel programme manager, Asia-Pacific, Autodesk, commented many staff would prefer to meet in person, especially for important meetings where collaboration among team members is required.

“As soon as travel can return, I am sure our staff will start planning,” she opined.

Agreeing, Benson Tang, executive director, corporate travel, Informa Markets, believes once a vaccine is available confidence to resume corporate travel will be strong.

“We are social beings. Nothing can replace the benefit of meeting business associates, clients and colleagues (face-to-face). The question now is how we will value business travel post-Covid-19 when it can resume,” Nainggolan said.

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