Asia Pacific to lag business travel recovery, particularly in long haul

14 April, 2022

There is increasing certainty that unless we see a further sudden transformation of the virus that Asia Pacific, the first region of the world to be hit, will be the last region to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. That will mean continued lower levels of business travel across the region, especially in long-haul markets.  

Collinson, the global end-to-end travel experiences, airport services, and travel medical company, and CAPA – Centre for Aviation highlighted this in the second edition of the Asia Pacific Travel Recovery Report. Featuring survey responses from 400 C-suite senior manager level aviation and travel experts from 68 countries and leading global brands, the report provides an in-depth review of the changing travel and aviation landscape giving an insight into what to expect in 2022.

Although Asia Pacific is likely to recover more slowly than other regions, there have been recent positive steps towards reopening in many APAC markets over the past few weeks, including updates from Bali, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, and even a loosening of restrictions announced for those travelling to Hong Kong. 

Business travel will lag behind initial leisure recovery

Though leisure travel is likely to rebound once borders reopen, the Collinson and CAPA research for Asia Pacific found that experts are expecting business travel to take a little longer –just one in four (24%) see short-haul corporate travel recovering to more than 61% of 2019 levels in 2022 and just 7% see demand reaching four-fifths of 2019 levels this year.

Long-haul business travel remains the furthest from reach. According to 86% of global respondents, less than two-thirds of the long-haul business/corporate travel market will be back in 2022. Whilst in the Asia Pacific, just under a third (30%) of survey respondents believe that we won’t even reach 20% of 2019 levels in 2022.

Restrictions reduce, but safety remains top priority

Travel had come to an almost complete halt in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, when uncertainty was at its peak and nations closed their borders. During global lockdowns, only essential business and diplomatic travel were given priority through special lanes. Amidst all the chaos, Covid-19 testing came to the fore as a way to manage health risks and help control the spread of the virus.

After so much uncertainty over the past two years, many of us can’t wait to experience the joy of travel. However, safety is still a top priority and as a result, COVID-19 travel testing is likely to remain a key component of travel – be it rapid testing kits or fully-fledged PCR tests.

Testing to remain to bridge gap between present health risks and need for travel

If 2021 was the year of the vaccine, 2022 could be the year of testing. Until the pre-pandemic global confidence in travel is restored, safe and efficient testing is seen by many as the cautious way forward. The United Kingdom has relaxed testing requirements as long as you’re fully vaccinated, but this is not the story for every country. For a high number of markets, testing remains key to making travel possible again. This is particularly true for the Asia Pacific region.

COVID-19 testing is still a fundamental element for many markets globally to bridge the gap between the present health risks and the need for travel – especially where a traveller may not be vaccinated. This mindset can be seen by the recent border re-openings in markets such as Singapore, Australia and the United States – all of which cite Covid-19 tests as core components for reduced quarantine or even quarantine-free travel.

In terms of trends, when we look at COVID testing, the Collinson and CAPA survey found that more than half (54%) believe COVID-19 testing protocols will remain key to re-opening borders until the end of 2022, with a further quarter (26%) expecting this to continue until the end of 2023.

Concerns remain over fraudulent Covid-19 test results and vaccination passports

That said, the research did highlight that three-quarters (74%) of experts were concerned by reports of fraudulent Covid-19 test results and vaccination passports. Levels of those ‘very concerned’ were up 3 percentage points from 38% in the first edition of the survey in Apr-2021 and for ‘mildly concerned’ up 6 percentage points from the earlier edition.

Globally, just shy of a huge three quarters (72%) shared the view that traveller vaccine documentation is of ‘vital importance’, with most governments not risking re-opening borders without them. Conversely, less than a fifth (18%) considered them ‘not important’, as some governments will allow access regardless of digital health documents.