Opinion: Why agents need to tap into Asia’s business travel boom

Front view photo of an Asian businesswoman in formal clothes walking through an airport while talking on the phone.

Business travel within Asia is growing at twice the pace of the rest of the world and will overtake the US market within the next decade, presenting significant opportunities for Australian travel agencies.

However, in order to strengthen their foothold in the region and to maximise revenue opportunities in this lucrative market in 2019, Australian travel agents need to understand and meet, the nuanced needs of Asian business travellers.

Offer a consistent and transparent experience

Asian business travellers use a range of channels and devices; and are looking for consistent and transparent experiences across all of them. In these mobile-first markets, providing a tailored online experience is vital, with Southeast Asia now the fastest-growing, emerging smartphone market and users spending more time on the internet than any other market in the world.

Travel agents could look to engage with Asian business travellers on their most frequently-used channels, including social media networks. Singapore Airlines and MakeMyTrip were among the first to adopt WhatsApp to send customers support and notifications.

Travel agents can tap into new channels to communicate with travellers in a more personal and conversational manner, but also to cross-sell, upsell and service throughout the entire travel journey.

Catering for the Bleisure travellers

Asian business travellers are independent and entrepreneurial, and are expecting the same flexibility and efficiency for business travel that they would experience when booking for themselves.

The rise of ‘bleisure’ means that business travel behaviours are becoming more aligned to leisure travel, including cost consciousness.

Research by Amadeus found that recommendations focused on Asian business travellers saving money (34 per cent), ensured their safety (31 per cent) and made their travel more comfortable (29 per cent) were deemed the most useful. Asian Bleisure travellers are also investing time in planning the leisure portion of their trip, but not everything is booked in advance.

Delivering on ‘bleisure’ content is a key differentiator for travel agents; travel agents are uniquely positioned to offer a truly personalised service and can sell additional content and services, as they can access the travellers’ data including itinerary, profile, preferences, travel history and policies.

Travel agents can also share timely offers and content related to the destination, to inform and inspire travellers.

In addition, sharing economy services like Uber, Grab and Airbnb have become widely accepted for business travel — even more so than for leisure. Almost half (46%) of Asian business travellers use ride-sharing services to get around during their trip, compared to 31% of leisure travellers.

Taking a mobile-first approach

As Asian business travellers want to stay highly-connected when they’re overseas and place a premium on convenience, travel agents can use their trusted position to become an intermediary for useful in-country services.

This could include offering internet access, parking, lounge access, and restaurant recommendations.

To achieve this, travel agents need to ensure that their mobile platform is fully optimised. This will allow the travel agent and traveller to move beyond the traditional booking, and create a fully-connected travel experience, both during and post-trip.

Mobile can bring a whole new travel experience by connecting employees in the most efficient and cost-effective way, such as enabling ride-sharing or making use of destination services.

Personalisation through mobile apps will also be imperative.

In addition to encouraging a social-sign in to add to the business traveller’s corporate profile, current geo-location information can be shared with travel partners on where they are, with location-specific advertisements and offers that will prompt a ‘tap’.

Today’s ways of working – mobile, social platforms and self-service – open a myriad of possibilities for travellers and travel agents.

At the same time, digital technologies are changing the face of travel – Asian business travellers want choice, price transparency and personalisation, no matter where they are.

In order to service the modern Asian business traveller, Australian travel agencies must evolve their portfolio to differentiate and personalise their offering.

Renaud Nicolle is Vice President of Business Travel Asia Pacific at Amadeus

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