As Business Travel Drops, Teleconferencing Booms

By Mawhorr, S. A. | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 9, 2003 | Go to article overview

As Business Travel Drops, Teleconferencing Booms


Mawhorr, S. A., Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: S. A. Mawhorr Daily Herald Business Writer

What with terrorism, the sluggish economy, a war and the spread of highly contagious diseases many would be business travelers are picking up the phone or using the Web to connect with clients, partners or co-workers instead of hopping on a plane for a face-to- face meeting as they might have two years ago.

Business travel has dropped by about 25 percent since September 2000, according to the Business Travel Coalition, an advocacy group for business travelers based in Radner, Pa.

Although that's bad news for the struggling airline industry, it's good news for the burgeoning teleconferencing industry.

The teleconferencing industry has seen a 40 percent growth in call volume since Sept. 11, 2001, said Neal Lulofs, a senior marketing manager for MCI, which says its Chicago-based teleconferencing business is the largest in the world.

For nearly two years now, business travelers have had plenty of reasons to stay home.

First terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Then a sluggish economy forced businesses to cut back on travel expenses. War with Iraq renewed fears of attacks on Americans traveling abroad. Most recently, the spread of a mysterious respiratory illness known as SARS prompted many companies to restrict travel.

MCI's teleconferencing operations in Asia reported a 30 percent jump in April as SARS spread and more people used teleconferencing to stay off the streets and stay healthy.

"People are avoiding face-to-face meetings even if they're scheduled for just across the street," Lulofs said.

But the growth of the teleconferencing business goes beyond an increased vigilance prompted by threatening events, Lulofs said.

The industry was on track for the same 40 percent growth in call volume during the first half of 2000, before the terrorists attacks, he said.

"A gain in productivity is the reason the industry continues to grow," Lulofs said.

The industry also has grown beyond the traditional conference call in which an operator links several participants into one phone line. …

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