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Summary:

Forget the romance of the high-flying executive lifestyle. When a virtual events company recently asked execs whether they’d prefer a virtual conference to a trip to several American cities, large percentages said yes, citing the horrors of modern business travel. Houston, we have a problem.

cancelled flights

Much like George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air, business travel is a bit of a paradox. Sure, busy road warriors complain about living out of a suitcase, but there’s also a kind of perverse pride and even romance to the frequent flyer lifestyle of perpetually jetting from city to city.

So as more and more work goes digital and business people need to make fewer and fewer physical trips to get things done, how will well-traveled execs react to being increasingly grounded? The answer, a new survey reveals, is happy news for airport regulars, but lousy tidings for visitors’ bureaus.

When webcasting and virtual events firm ON24 asked 3,756 registrants to this year’s VUE2011 conference (hosted somewhat incongruously by San Francisco Giants Pitcher Brian “Fear the Beard” Wilson) how they feel about seeing less of the interior of hotels and airports as work grows more wired, many said they’d be happy to go virtual rather than travel to several major American cities.

Virtual events vendors will be thrilled with the exact findings. Texas tourism officials, not so much. The numbers reveal that hefty percentages of respondents would rather go virtual than visit:

  • Houston – 49.3 percent
  • Los Angeles – 41.7 percent
  • Orlando – 37.5 percent
  • Miami – 33.3 percent
  • Chicago – 27.8 percent

While the figures can’t be flattering for these cities, they primarily reflect the sorry state of business travel, with 92 percent of executives telling ON24 business travel is failing to improve, and almost half saying it is getting worse. The execs’ reasons for dreading flying will be familiar to anyone who has been on a plane recently: 53 percent fear the middle seat, while 50.6 percent and 40.9 percent respectively said delays and security lines were the worst aspect of flying.

“In today’s digital age, professionals increasingly prefer virtual events and webcasts to traveling to in-person events,” commented Denise Persson, ON24’s chief marketing officer. “With virtual communication, there are no logistical barriers interfering with getting the information you need.”

Would you prefer to a digital event to a quick trip to Houston?

Image courtesy of Flickr user {Guerrilla Futures | Jason Tester}.

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