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Meeting and business conferences not affected by the flue

The good news for the business meetings and professional conferences industries is that fear of the H1N1 "swine" influenza is not a factor in either bookings nor attendance for the remainder of 2009 and 2010, according to a statement issued by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE).

At their recent Global Education Conference currently being held in Prague. Citing the findings from a recent ACTE survey, association Executive Director Susan Gurley stated that while an underlying concern for the spread of the H1N1 influenza is prevalent in the business travel industry, an overwhelming number of corporate travel managers and travelers are not letting it interfere with their immediate itineraries.

– Ninety-one percent of survey respondents of 105 international companies responding to a survey taken in early October indicated they are not holding off on meetings or conferences until after the influenza season. (Only 9 percent responded "yes.").

– Ninety-four percent responded "No" to the question "Have your travelers asked not to travel in flu season this year?" (Only 6 percent said Yes.")

Gurley further stated that these statistics indicate two things: that global commerce is confident that the H1N1 threat will fail to materialize just like the avian influenza; or that it will be much milder than the worst case scenarios currently cited by government and media sources. This position is supported by additional numbers regarding corporate preparedness regarding the H1N1 influenza specifically.

– Sixty-three percent reported that they had serious concerns about the spread of the H1N1 influenza (with 37 percent stated the did not).

– In answer the question, "Do you have a plan or instructions for travelers who may get caught up in airport screenings with flu-like symptoms," only 34 percent said "Yes," (with 66 percent answering "No.")

Follow up investigation by the association reveals that nearly all corporations are urging employees and travellers to stay home if they are feeling ill, regardless of their symptoms, and that bottles of hand sanitizer are as common at meetings as the little bowls of mints.

Gurley warned that a sudden upsurge in the H1N1 influenza, in which much larger numbers of travellers or employees were involved could create a spike in internet demand, and tax a company's ability to effectively communicate through that means. "This is an ideal time to get that mechanism in place, and to make sure that key people are trained in its use," said Gurley.