The importance of face-to-face meetings: to travel or not to travel?

29th October 2013

Last week, George Osborne and Boris Johnson returned from a much-publicised trip to China promoting UK trade and encouraging Chinese students to study in the UK. This was just one of many thousands of trips made every year by politicians and diplomats the world over. Indeed, Reuters reported that US Secretary of State John Kerry has clocked up 213,028 miles travelling to 34 different countries since only February due to his belief in the importance of ‘personal diplomacy’.

It seems that, even in this high-tech age, governments still believe in the power of the personal. Yet businesses, who for so long have claimed that the face-to-face is crucial, are decreasing their travel. Some businesses are implementing ‘no travel’ weeks or signing up to reduced-travel pledges. Research by the World Wildlife Fund (2010) found that nearly half of the large UK companies interviewed had reduced their business flying in the previous two years and 85% of those had no intention to return to ‘business as usual’ flying, instead believing that ‘it’s possible for a company to fly less and remain both profitable and competitive.’ Is this a paradigm shift or do face-to-face contact and exchange visits still matter?

The ITC’s Why Travel? project explores these sorts of underlying motivations for travel from a wide range of perspectives in order to better understand why  we travel and thus how we can make travel better – for individuals, societies and the planet. See for more information.