By Max Clarke

The eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano in April 2010 led to some 100,000 flights being cancelled last year after the corrosive ash cloud grounded European flights.

Unable to attend crucial meetings in person, Europe’s business people turned to videoconferencing. Across Europe, workspace provider Regus saw a 180 % month-on-month increase in video communication enquiries in April and May 2010.

One year later, Regus is still seeing a level of video communication enquiries far above pre-cloud levels, averaging a 75% increase on the previous year across the UK.

Many expected that it would be business as usual once Europe’s aviation authorities allowed planes to fly at higher ash densities in May 2010, and airlines resumed normal service. However, the continued raised interest in Regus’ video communication facilities suggests businesses now see virtual meetings as a viable alternative to face-to-face meetings.

“The worldwide disruption caused by the volcanic ash cloud of 2010 had a beneficial consequence,“ remarked Celia Donne, Regus’ regional director, “it taught businesses that video communication can replace time-consuming and costly air travel.

“At a time when companies of all sizes want to cut travel costs and shrink their carbon footprint, why spend money on flights abroad when they can achieve the same results at a nearby video communication studio?”

The effect has not been confined to Northern Europe however with interest in video communication also increasing in parts of the globe not directly affected by the ash cloud.

The aviation chaos of April and May 2010 persuaded many companies in Asia and Europe that they no longer need to cross continents to hold effective meetings.