Last night I read in a Wall Street Journal article that airlines experienced a 30-40% cut in U.S. Business travel in 2009 and expect only moderate recovery in 2010. The article explains that more companies are opting for teleconferencing as an alternative to personal meetings. From several standpoints, that seems attractive. No airline or hotel costs and no lost time traveling saves the company money. For the employee, no time is sacrificed away from their family, and even better, no security lines (just kidding).
Seems great right? Not really. Traveling may be expensive and inconvenient, but a WebEx cannot replace meeting a customer in person. There is a real difference in doing business with someone you know and have spent time with, perhaps even sharing a meal. We are committed to this concept at Sealevel. In fact, we traveled just as much in 2009 as the year before and plan to continue our travel schedule this year.
To help us get the most out of our travel investment, we created a pretty cool tool to help us plan for a visit to a particular area. We commissioned a computer science student interning with us to create SeaTravel, a custom application that ties Google Maps into our customer management database to chart customers located within a specified radius of our planned destination. To make things easier, we built in various sorting capabilities that make it easy to slice and dice the information and zoom in on details. It’s a great tool to use when planning customer visits around tradeshows like AFCEA West in San Diego and Embedded World in Nuremburg, Germany. In the screenshot, you can see all of our customers within a 75-mile radius of Washington, DC.
Of course, if you find yourself in the Upstate area of South Carolina, make sure to stop by and see us—we love visitors.