Summary of GALA's International Travel Survey
In late April, GALA conducted a survey to gather input on our stakeholders’ willingness and ability to travel internationally to attend an in-person conference. We needed to collect this data for two reasons. First, to understand the preferences and positions of our audience, and second, to gather data that may be useful in contract negotiations with our conference venue in Dublin.
We had an overwhelming response to the survey, which was promoted via email and social media. (If only all our surveys would generate this level of interest!) With over 700 responses from around the globe, we feel confident that we heard from a representative chunk of our membership and the industry at large. Thank you to those of you that took the time to share your input.
Summarizing the results in one sentence would sound like this: people are so ready to travel again, and can’t wait to see one another in person, but aren’t ready to do so this year. Only about 30% of respondents indicated they would be likely to attend an in-person conference at all this year.
While some factors are in our control – like capacity limits and heightened sanitation procedures at a conference venue – most factors are not. And those factors can have a big impact. Quarantine requirements in both home and destination countries each decrease a person’s likelihood of traveling, while high vaccination rates and low COVID transmission rates each increase a person’s likelihood of traveling.
Another factor for business travelers is their company policy on international travel and conference reimbursement. Twenty-two percent of respondents report that their companies will not allow international travel to in-person conferences. A full 52% don’t yet have clear policies, and only 26% will permit it. The numbers for reimbursement look similar.
When we segmented the responses by region, we saw variability in peoples’ likelihood to attend an in-person event in September that generally aligned with regional vaccination rates and quarantine policies.
As is often the case with surveys, the qualitative data we received by way of comments gave us deeper, and sometimes colorful, insights into peoples’ attitudes about travel and conferences this year. We read each and every one and can definitely identify with and understand all of the sentiments and opinions expressed. Thank you again for sharing with us.
Based on the results of the survey, and on the positions of the GALA Board and Staff (not to mention our insurers), we do not feel that it is wise to proceed with our in-person conference in Dublin this September. It breaks our hearts to postpone the chance to reunite, but it is without a doubt the safest and most conservative option for GALA and our stakeholders.
Our contract in Dublin was signed long before the pandemic emerged. The venue has been cooperative, professional, and reasonable so far, and we hope and expect that will continue to be the case. We will soon begin to work with them on crafting a mutually agreeable solution. Meanwhile, we intend to go ahead with a virtual conference option for our September conference, and we will count the days until GALA 2022 San Diego when we can have the reunion of the decade!