By Paul Gordon – Experienced freelance international membership consultant and contractor
The world has become accustomed to conducting much of its business via a webcam. Technology has made it possible to connect with almost anyone, anywhere, at any time.
Conventional business practice has maintained that face-to-face always works best when it comes to establishing trust, building rapport or closing a sale. In some international regions, this view has been particularly entrenched. In certain parts of the Middle East, for example, traditional methods of doing business have held sway, which is based on close personal relationships and trust built up over a long period of time through regular face to face meetings. But the past two years have been a time of compromise.
I read a New York Times article last year which described how, surprisingly, many companies had reported no drop in their sales revenues during the pandemic as a result of the sharp reduction in business travel and the need to have business conversations online, not in person. This may not be true for everyone but is an interesting finding and has clear benefits.
Questions have been posed about the future of business travel. Is it still necessary to travel extensively to expand your business or membership organisation internationally? The pandemic has demonstrated that many outcomes can be achieved without this requirement, at much less cost and with a reduction in carbon footprint. The climate crisis alone is a compelling reason to reduce business travel. A younger generation of employees are increasingly tech-savvy and environmentally aware. Organisations that embrace these principles may find it easier to retain staff. Global economic pressures, including the rising cost of fossil fuels, will further squeeze budgets for travel. Whilst the widespread adoption of video conferencing provides the opportunity to grow business in wider markets without the need to set foot on an aircraft.
Ultimately, what the customer wants is likely to be a deciding factor. If the customer is happy to meet online then it could be a win all-round.
International business travel is expected to recover, but it seems unlikely that it will be quite the same as before, which must be a good thing in view of the climate crisis. Whilst some degree of travel will always be necessary, organisations will have to become more thoughtful, more economical, and more efficient in how they do so.
This can be a positive for those smaller membership organisations with more limited means who now can now leverage international membership markets without the need for huge expenses on business travel.
Paul Gordon is an experienced freelance international membership consultant and contractor, available for all types of membership projects. He can be reached at email@example.com