Business travel in the Asia Pacific region is on the rise, and it is not going to slow down anytime soon. Whether you are born and bred in Asia-Pacific or have come here from farther shores, it is crucial for you as a business owner or HR leader to understand what matters to your employees who are traveling for business in the APAC region..
Business travel within the region is growing at double the speed of the rest of the world, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. It is projected to grow more than twice as fast as in Europe and four times as fast as in North America, as per a report by McKinsey. Since 2000, business travel spending in Asia has more than doubled, and will only continue to rise. China is expected to remain the world’s largest business travel market even though the economy is slowing down. On the other hand, the US market – which was formerly the world leader in this sector – is predicted to grow at a slower pace than the global average. With the same growth being experienced within your company, you might be sending staff more frequently on trips abroad. Most travel buyers agree that travel experience directly influences employee retention and corporate turnover, which suggests that companies should pay greater emphasis on the travel experience of their employees, according to the Global Business Travel Association. To maximise your employees’’ experience, understanding your their needs and preferences is essential, which will allow them to perform better during the trip.
The four Asian business traveler archetypes
A study commissioned by the Singapore Tourism Board concludes that Asian business travelers fall under one out of four archetypes. It surveyed 2,565 individuals from key Asian markets such as China, Indonesia, India, Singapore, and Japan.
Stereotypical Suits: They embody the traditional image of a business traveler, and value convenience during their trip more than anything else.
Belt Tighteners: They are the most value-conscious, and always look for the cheapest option. They would instead save money than spend more to boost convenience.
Points Maximisers: They view travel as a way to maximise their loyalty rewards from preferred travel providers. To them, perks are an essential aspect of travel.
Service Seekers: They place the most emphasis on travel experiences and are willing to spend more on additional services and facilities, as well as to make the most of leisure opportunities.
As each archetype gravitates towards different preferences, companies must gauge whether their corporate travel policy makes room for each. Thus, it helps to understand the archetypes profoundly and find out what truly matters to them.
The same study shows that Asian business travelers have more flexibility when it comes to planning their trips, as compared to their Western counterparts. For example, they have gained the freedom to choose their hotel, carrier, and even how long their trip would last.
According to McKinsey, Asian business travelers desire more freedom when it comes to their travel booking processes. They prefer to make independent bookings via online travel agents, directly with a provider or using their company’s online business travel booking tool. This is substantiated by a more recent study that 57 percent of business travelers prefer to use a single app to plan, manage, and track their travel.
Technology has played a part in fueling the desire for more flexibility. Travel apps and software are streamlining the booking process by making information accessible, allowing employees to make price comparisons and find alternatives, as well as make independent bookings. Hence, companies within Asia are using such tools to empower their employees to have more leeway in their travel bookings.
Innovation and convenience
Asian business travelers are choosing to embrace technology and utilise digital platforms to plan their travels, with a recent study by CWT reporting that 73 percent of Asian business travelers opted to book their flights digitally rather than through human interaction. This is also true of hotel reservations (78 percent), ground transportation (71 percent) and flight check-ins (68 percent). For example, when it comes to choosing flights, they would look for direct flights and convenient schedules. As for hotels, factors such as high-speed Wi-Fi and nearness to work take precedence. A key observation for this emphasis on convenience is the need for the employee to be able to manage the situation at all times and make real-time decisions when necessary.
This means companies may have to rewrite and update their corporate travel policies to make business travel a more innovative and better experience for modern employees.
The rise of bleisure travel
In Expedia’s Bleisure Travel Trends study, 60 percent of the Asian business travelers view travel as a job perk rather than a chore. This is because they tend to combine business and leisure travel, with many business travelers extending their business trips from a few hours to a few days for leisure. Asian business travelers, especially millennials, are almost twice as likely to book a business trip that overlaps with a weekend, as compared to their European peers.
Apart from that, survey respondents indicated that when they would extend their business trips for leisure, the length of the trip can almost double, with the average respondents from China and India increasing their trip from 3.4 days to 5 days and from 5 days to 9 days respectively. Asian business travelers were also much more likely to enjoy their travel experiences rather than material reasons. Some key factors that Asian business travelers consider when deciding whether or not to extend a business trip for leisure include whether they have been to the destination before and if there is a specific attraction at the destination they would like to visit.
The future of Asian business travel
Clearly, Asian business travel trends are changing. The modern employee has different expectations from their overseas trips than their older counterparts did. As business travelers are essentially your company’s ambassadors abroad, it’s best to meet them halfway and make the trip a positive experience for both the company and the employee. The future of business travel is about putting your people(not policy) first. By staying flexible, strategic and adapting to new technology, companies can ensure that business travel enables their growth and allows their employees to grow and thrive.