A new report shows that executives from nearly half of all companies are expecting their companies to increase their use of air travel through the end of 2012. A recent American Airlines online survey found that 47% of business owners and employees believe their travel needs will increase in the next 12-18 months, while only 12% expect a decrease and 41% forecast static air travel expenses.
The survey, which drew on the responses of more than 2,600 owners and employees of small- and medium-size businesses, reported that air travel has increased because 64% of respondents believe face-to-face meetings are crucial for their business. Part of this openness to travel may also be the result of respondents’ growing optimism: 72% expect their company’s economic outlook will improve over the next year-and-a-half.
“For many small and medium enterprises, the future of their business relies on finding new customers, new suppliers and new markets,” says Karen Buls, director of SME products, marketing and sales strategy for American Airlines. “Even in a difficult economy, many small businesses are predicting an increase in their travel needs over the next 12 months.”
Some distributors say they expect their air travel to increase as a result of increased attendance at trade shows and conferences, rather than direct travel to individual clients. Daniel Kirkham, owner of Ad Specialties of Oregon NW (asi/105328), has been budgeting more travel time at trade shows and face-to-face events that offer a higher volume of potential clients.
“Our face-to-face meetings have been on the decline due to my clients having less time,” says Kirkham, pointing to one customer that used to have three marketing associates who could make time to meet with him, and now only has one. “It’s still a relationship business, but I don’t have to see my clients every day.”
Other distributors expect their airplane trips to increase in frequency in the next couple of years. Debi Book, president of Outlaws Embroidery (asi/288486), took over the company six months ago. While she is holding off on travel as she and her husband get the company up and running, she plans to increase travel in the next year or two.
“There’s a trade show in Chicago that we really want to go to, and there are so many vendors there, but your first year as a company you can’t really get up and go,” says Book. “Looking in a catalog can’t tell you all you need to know about the product or vendor – so next year we’re going to make it out.” -- Betsy Cummings