The year ahead may see some relief as vaccinations get distributed. However, the industry still needs to get three elements right…

As the Asia Pacific region anxiously awaits closure to the pandemic, recovery and revival in business travel will vary across sectors and will accelerate revenue diversification and digitization.

According to one recent survey, many executives were optimistic that business travel would resume first (38%) or at the same pace as leisure travel (47%) as more travel bubble arrangements get established between key markets. Business travel is expected to vary across sectors, with 70% of APAC executives agreeing that marine and energy companies would resume travel first.

The perspectives were shared in travel firm Amadeus’ polls of 100 executives from business travel agencies across the world, on their priorities, needs and businesses strategies in 2021 and beyond. 

Summary of sentiments

When asked about what the future of business travel would look like, there was consensus among APAC respondents on the need for beyond-air content.

  • In terms of 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%).
  •  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, many executives believed that there would be a 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 travel management 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.
  • Business travel executives polled believed price will be less important, with duty of care, risk management and traveler safety taking priority. APAC companies are expected to prefer the “larger travel brands” that have robust and regulated safety standards: a trend observed across the whole travel industry. Only 24% believed travel policies will be a key driver, compared to 48% on global average.
  • The most imminent challenge for most business travel agencies is survival. Given low business demand, many face significant cash flow concerns and a need to tightly-manage costs. The main recovery strategy for APAC: 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.

Said the firm’s Vice President of Business Travel (APAC), Renaud Nicolle: “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 AI and machine learning can speed up operational and commercial readiness at an unprecedented pace. Recovery will come. Rethinking travel is the first step.”