As a cheerleader for protection of the environment, my initial reaction to video conferencing is, of course, that it is a great idea. It almost eliminates the carbon impact of travel entirely. All you have to do is show up at your office or a nearby location where video conferencing is available, have your "face-to-face" meeting, and return to your work. Not bad, eh? Not having to sweat making a flight, getting through security, and going through all of the other inefficiencies of travel? Well, in the case of video conferencing what is good for the planet is not necessarily good for the travel business—especially hotels. And that is the conundrum.
According to an article appearing recently in the Chicago Tribune, many companies are slashing travel budgets and real face-to-face meetings and transitioning to video conferencing. Cisco Systems Inc., for example, has cut its annual travel budget by two-thirds, to $240 million from $750 million, by using video conferencing technology. Video conferencing technology has improved in recent years to the point where it is highly reliable.
As the recession resides, business travel will pick up once more but one has to wonder if companies like Cisco will ever allocate the same kind of dollars for business travel again. What is a hotel company to do? Offering video conferencing services is certainly a good idea, of course. Finding new ways to identify and market to prospective customers is also important—through social networking tools like Twitter, for example.
As an environmentalist and lodging industry supporter, the issue of video conferencing tears me in half. What do you think?