In a globalised world, one of the most effective growth strategies is to open up new markets. Exporting firms are enjoying greater revenue and profit growth than their domestically-focused counterparts for the second consecutive year, according to global research by Regus. 
Entering new markets may be a proven route to growth, but it does present challenges — from local regulation to risk management. And there are challenges for individuals, too. Tell a busy global executive that you’re adding another country to the list of markets he or she needs to visit regularly, and the news may not be welcomed. Business travel stress levels increase with age, travel frequency and seniority , and the main stress factors complained of are lost or delayed luggage; poor or no internet connections; having to fly economy on medium or long haul; and delays.
Your finance people may also groan at the news, especially since airline prices in APAC are expected to increase by about 2.5 percent in 2013, even with low-cost carriers entering the market. Average hotel rates in APAC are predicted to rise by 3.5 percent – and up to 8 percent in Singapore – and car rental rates by almost 6 percent. 
Is all your travel necessary?
Given the stresses and the costs, do businesses really need to increase business travel in order to enjoy growth abroad?
Whilst some business travel is inevitable, much of it is no longer necessary, given connecting technologies such as video-conferencing (VC). VC is a powerful tool for reducing business travel costs, and it can also help companies to improve the way they communicate.
Say your relationships with customers or contacts abroad were previously managed via business trips, backed by occasional phone calls. If you replace some of the travel and the conference calls with VC, you cut the travel costs, but still connect better than you were doing by phone. Less cost and more effective communications? That really is win-win.
And, by the way, video-conferencing can deliver other wins — for example, making it possible to cut office costs by promoting remote working. It can also increase the talent pool available to companies: in a study by Regus, 79 percent of respondents said that having the option to choose video-conferencing over travel some of the time would encourage mothers to return to the workplace.
Look for local expertise
The other way to reduce business travel is to entrust more to local management. The days of relying on expat managers to manage operations abroad are fast fading as businesses try to cut back on expensive expat packages. Companies are also more aware of the problems associated with expat managers – most commonly (according to the Economist Intelligence Unit):
At the same time, local knowledge — of anything from HR practices to consumer preferences — local language skills, and local connections and networks are increasingly valued. And the growing experience and talent available in APAC means there are plenty of local staff capable of filling management roles. No wonder, then, that in PWC’s Global CEO Survey 2012, 70 percent of CEOs said they plan to primarily recruit local talent whenever they have market needs. Only 17 percent said they plan to move talent across borders. 
Outsourcing non-core tasks, such as workspace management, to providers with local knowledge also reduces the need to commit your key managers and resources to a new market.
Obviously, even with more local hiring, there’s never going to be a complete end to business travel. People still need to meet face-to-face; build a rapport; see HQ or regional offices for themselves; even flatter a key customer with a personal visit. But there’s no need to make the same trips over and over again. High-quality video-conferencing can replace them. And it’s ever been easier to access these facilities with VC studios being available in most cities.
Learn the lessons of previous travel chaos
Every so often, an event or situation occurs that restricts business travel — from health issues like SARS, to terrorism fears, to the volcanic ashcloud from Iceland that enveloped Europe in 2010. At such times, with business travel plans impossible or undesirable, companies often have to replace them with video-conferencing. Interestingly, what then tends to happen is that once the specific crisis is resolved, video-conferencing stays at a higher level than previously, as more businesses see its attractions for themselves.
So, for example, in Europe, a year after the Icelandic ash cloud, video-conferencing enquiries were still up, on average, 75 percent over previous numbers. The ashcloud taught companies the VC habit, and they kept it, replacing some of their expensive international or transcontinental travel with a quick visit to a nearby VC studio.
So, as you look into your options for expanding into new markets in 2013, take the opportunity to review your business’s travel patterns. Think about whether it’s really necessary; think about using video-conferencing instead; and think about relying more on local talent, instead of flying expat managers out to handle everything. As well as cutting your costs, it could also improve business performance.
 “Breaking new ground”, Regus, 2013.
 “Stress triggers for business travellers”, Carlson Wagonlit, October 2012.
 “Carlson Wagonlit travel forecasts 2013 global travel prices”, 2012.
 “Up or out: next moves for the modern expatriate”, Economist Intelligence Unit sponsored by Regus, 2010.
 “2012 Global CEO Survey”, PWC.