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Diversification, digitization and duty of care to drive business travel recovery in Asia Pacific, according to business travel executives

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A revival in APAC business travel will vary across sectors and will accelerate revenue diversification and digitization in the industry, according to executives from business travel agencies.

The perspectives were shared in Amadeus’ new report “Reboot. Recharge. Rethink Business Travel”, that explores the factors and trends influencing the timeline for global business travel recovery. The report’s insights are based on interviews conducted with almost 100 executives from business travel agencies across the world, on their priorities, needs and businesses strategies in 2021 and beyond.

In Asia Pacific, the majority of executives were optimistic that business travel would resume first (38%) or at the same pace as leisure travel (47%) as more travel bubble arrangements are established between key markets such as Singapore and Hong Kong. Business travel is expected to vary across sectors, with 70% of APAC executives agreeing that marine and energy companies would resume travel first.

When asked about what the future of business travel would look like, there was consensus among APAC executives on the need for beyond-air content. To manage safety regulations and changing flight availability, 18% of executives said hotels content would increase in demand, alongside insurance (15%), new ancillary services (9%), and car rentals (9%).

But the “most voted” business travel evolution in APAC was the shift from unmanaged to managed travel. With travel restrictions and border closures changing frequently across markets, most executives believed that there would be strong business need for real-time information on quarantine requirements, schedule changes and route management tied to the establishment of travel bubbles.

When asked about what factors would help to drive business travel demand, many executives felt the factors were beyond TMCs control, such as international policies and travel regulations. More than one third (39%) said the removal of mandatory quarantine periods would be critical for a significant business travel rebound, coupled with the widespread availability of an effective vaccine.

Whereas travel budget was undoubtedly a key driver for business travel in the pre-COVID-19, APAC business travel executives believe price will be less important, with duty of care, risk management and traveler safety taking priority. Companies in APAC are expected to prefer “larger travel brands” that have robust and regulated safety standards – a trend observed across the whole travel industry. Interestingly, only 24% believe travel policies will be a key driver, compared to 48% on global average.

The report also revealed that business travel agencies’ most imminent challenge is survival. Given low business demand, many face significant cash flow concerns and a need to tightly manage costs. The main recovery strategy for executives in the APAC region was clear: 64% said cost optimization would be their top priority in the mid-term, with a focus on operational optimization using automation and digitization. This was closely followed by building critical workforce capabilities to manage new technology and deliver better journeys.

“In APAC, we are committed to working together with our customers, partners and the wider industry to rethink travel, ultimately ensuring it continues to be a key driver of global progress, positivity and prosperity. For our customers, technology is providing the opportunity to evolve at a pace that was never possible just a few decades ago. Flexible, scalable and cloud-enabled tools coupled with agile working practices allow companies to develop new innovations quickly to meet the new demands placed on them due to the pandemic. Data-led artificial intelligence and machine learning can speed up operational and commercial readiness at an unprecedented pace. Recovery will come. Rethinking travel is the first step,” said Renaud Nicolle, Vice President of Business Travel APAC, at Amadeus.