For many, many years, there's been talk about how business travel was living on borrowed time, because it was going to be replaced by things like videoconferencing that offered the same benefits at a cheaper price and with less hassle. But every time this sort of boom is predicted, it fails to materialize. After 9/11, video and web conferencing took off for about three months when travel dropped, but then use fell
right back down. Several months ago, more such predictions were made with oil prices driving the cost of business travel through the roof, and now, the motivation is apparently the drive to cut costs. For instance, Cisco's CEO John Chambers says that by using the company's own communications technology, it's been able to slice its per-employee travel spending by more than half, and that it won't increase again
, even after the recession. Of course, as the NYT notes, Chambers is making a look-how-we-eat-our-own-dog-food sales pitch. But it's worth wondering if a prolonged recession could finally give these travel-replacement technologies the boost they've long been looking for, and supplant business travel, rather than just add to it, as they have largely done thus far.