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Will technology eradicate the need for business travel?

In July 2008, Fast Company – a business magazine that focuses on technology, business and design – said that ever-improving video conferencing technologies and increasing fuel costs meant that “within five years, technology will obliterate the need for business travel.” They argued that businesses were limiting employees’ air travel in order to be more environmentally friendly, with companies such as AT&T reportedly reducing employee air miles by 15%.

Four years on and we find ourselves in a unstable economic climate with fuel prices at a record high, yet SilverDoor has experienced year-on-year growth; 2011 was no exception, with a growth of 35%. It is clear that there is still a demand for business travel. Why are so many companies choosing to send their employees hundreds of miles away when their clients are just a conference call away?

As well as finding corporate accommodation for business travellers at SilverDoor, we do a lot of business travel ourselves, because we believe the best way to build strong relationships with our property providers is to meet face-to-face. Our employees have visited numerous cities over the years, from Dubai and Casablanca to Brussels (pictured). Video conference calls can seem impersonal and it is important for us to inspect the apartments first-hand.

Our Partner Relations and Rates Manager – International, Paddy Hegan, is in charge of developing relationships with international property partners and inspecting international properties. Since joining SilverDoor in October he has visited over 13 different cities across Europe and Asia.

Paddy believes strongly in the importance of face-to-face meetings and believes that “meeting the various people among our partner portfolio attaches a human side to the SilverDoor name as well as conveying our professionalism in the most direct manner possible. It also makes us approachable in the event of an unexpected problem as in our meetings we express a willingness to work towards mutual goals and we can ensure they know exactly whom to contact to resolve things.”

At SilverDoor we interact with many countries and cultures on a daily basis so it is important we understand them as best we can. Paddy explains: “Internationally, people react best to those who try to understand their business or social culture. This is why in Japan we bow respectfully and hand over business cards with both hands, or why we say ‘Guten Tag’ in Germany before starting a conversation, it’s why we never turn down another vodka that we really cannot stomach in Russia as we raise a glass to whatever our business partners have decided to toast next and it is why we always ask permission to speak in English when in a foreign country instead of just assuming that it is acceptable to do so.”

Paddy’s comments demonstrate why business travel can never be completely replaced. SilverDoor will continue to invest in face-to-face contact, and we believe that other companies will do the same.

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About the Author

Stuart Winstone

With over 15 years’ experience in hospitality and the serviced apartment sector, Stuart has gained an unparalleled knowledge about the industry and how it works. As SilverDoor’s representative on the HBAA Serviced Apartment Committee, he has a comprehensive insight in to serviced apartment news and property partners all over the globe.