As we set foot into a post-COVID world with easing restrictions, the travel ecosystem continues to be in a state of flux. Against this backdrop, this new study commissioned by Collinson, provides some insights into the latest trends and expected travel habits of travellers across Asia Pacific.
The study surveyed over 5,300 travellers across seven major markets of Asia Pacific including Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Singapore and South Korea between Apr-2022 and Jun-2022. All were frequent travellers who own a credit or charge card with travel rewards or benefits.
The research informs how travellers perceive various payment card travel benefits, particularly access to airport lounges and the Priority Pass lounge programme, and profiles their travel behaviour, including typical travel taken before the COVID-19 pandemic, travel taken in 2021, and expected travel in 2022.
Pent up demand likely to result in further increase in trips across Asia Pacific
Collinson expects pent up demand is likely to result in a further increase in trips across Asia Pacific in 2022. Travellers who averaged six return trips pre-pandemic (2019), are beginning to return to the skies, with an average of three self-predicted return trips planned for 2022, notes the research.
However, with countries across Asia Pacific easing their travel restrictions and requirements in recent times, Collinson believes pent-up demand amongst travellers is likely to result in a further spike in trips this year across the region.
Domestic dominates short-term; international aspirations rising
With summer in the northern hemisphere ushering in what has generally been believed to be the peak travel season, one can expect to see a rise in travel around the region as people start planning their much-awaited breaks. Although the majority of these trips are expected to be domestic leisure trips, more than half respondents (55%) expressed an interest in travelling outside of their home market for at least one trip.
This is significant, as it showcases that the number of people who are willing to undertake international travel has grown by nearly 10% since 2021, while domestic leisure travel growth remains steady at 3% for the same period. Equally, it reflects how travellers are not holding back on the scale of their journey and remain eager to make up for the time and experiences lost over the last two years due to the pandemic.
Leisure remains much further along recovery path than business travel
Of all the forms of travel, be it leisure, business or a mix of the two, business travel is the one that has been impacted the most. On one hand, the research shows nearly 70% of travellers have booked at least one leisure trip in 2022, but this sits at less than 50% for corporate travel.
Overall, across all forms of travel, the number of return trips is seeing a gradual increase. Whilst this shows positivity, some concerns remain around returning to travel, with more than three in five (61%) of the research respondents indicating that the pandemic continues to have a discouraging effect on their air travel.
Travel anxieties continue to linger and the airport is at the centre of concern
Despite people committing to travel in 2022, the research reveals a large portion of travel hesitation seems to stem from people’s unwillingness to be inside an airport. Close to half (42%) of respondents indicated having anxiety about picking up infections while at the airport.
Others fear that crowds at the airport may lead to another outbreak, whilst further respondents want to avoid the logistical hassles that come with travelling in the new normal – including mask-wearing, travel restrictions, mandatory quarantines, and more. However, only a little over 10% of people still feel unsafe about travel, which is a promising trend when it comes to travel recovery.
Lounge access the most desirable travel benefit at the airport
With these worries it is not surprising to learn travellers regard lounge access as the most desirable travel benefit at the airport. They are seen as key in curbing travel anxiety with more than half respondents (55%) selected that they “feel valued as a customer” as their number one emotion when they have access to a lounge as a reward benefit in markets such as China, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea
A further 41% also agreed that lounge access makes them feel safer when undertaking air travel. However, these numbers are significantly higher in markets such as China and India, where borders have largely remained closed in 2022. In China, in particular, almost two-thirds (64%) admit that being in a lounge makes them feel safer, whilst slightly less than 70% believe that having access to a lounge makes them feel valued.
Improving customer journey could yield significant dividends for brands
The survey findings also support that an increased focus on improving the entire customer journey in these testing times could yield significant dividends for brands, an encouraging trend that could see brands “innovate and enhance customer experiences aligned with the return of travel,” according to Todd Handcock, the Asia Pacific president for Collinson.