Study finds key reason for business travel is networking

By Julie Clothier for CNN

Sales least likely reason for work trips
Gone are the days of the traveling salesman, according to an Australian study into the key reasons behind business travel.

It has found that traveling for work is more likely to be motivated by knowledge sharing and building relationships rather than boosting sales.

The University of New South Wales study, which surveyed more than 200 business travelers flying into and out of Sydney International Airport, found that just 16 percent said the key reason for their travel was to increase the revenue of their firm.

Almost a quarter, or 24 percent, said creating new alliances was their main reason for travel, and 30 percent sited internal matters as the reason behind their trip.

A further 30 percent said there were reasons other than those listed for their business trips, with most of those saying they were traveling to “share” or “gain knowledge.”

“Business trips emerge as a mechanism to access, develop and transfer knowledge internationally, and possibly affect a country’s ability to innovate,” said the study, the results of which have recently been published in the “Asian and Pacific Migration Journal.”

“It has been suggested that business travel may be a mechanism through which a country absorbs knowledge, which is subsequently uses to enhance productivity and ultimately economic growth.”

A common type of “knowledge sharing” was traveling to attend conferences and exhibitions, the study said.

“Surprisingly, increasing sales was the least common motivation suggesting that international business travel is not really an ancillary service to the trade of commodities and services.”

Bob Cowen, based near Detroit, Michigan in the United States, travels at least once a week for work, mainly in North America.

Cowen, who founded the Internet Travel Guru and Internet Travel Tips Web sites, told CNN he was not surprised by the findings of the Sydney survey.

“It does a good job of confirming what was my gut instinct. I’m not surprised by these results,” he told CNN.

“Sales should be done locally, by people who understand the local market. Very rarely when I travel am I dealing with the customer direct.”

He said business travel was important for companies in order to carry out the functions that could not be done via teleconferencing, including training and developing products where people needed to collaborate and learn face to face.

Cowen believed the trend to travel for work to gain knowledge would continue.

He said he believed technology may one day be able to recreate some face to face situations but travel for business would remain a necessity for firms for the foreseeable future.