The New Asian Business Traveller: Autonomous, Flexible, Online


Asian Business Travellers are now enjoying greater autonomy and demanding more flexible travel policies, according to the findings of a commissioned report on ‘Asian Business Travellers’. More than half of Asian Business Travellers view work trips fundamentally as a travel experience, with 69 percent of them exercising more freedom when choosing their airlines or hotels.

Conducted by McKinsey & Company, the “Asian Business Travellers” report surveyed over 2,500 people across five key markets in Asia – Singapore, India, Indonesia, Japan and China, which represent more than 78.8% of Asia’s business travel spend.

The research also analysed booking and spending patterns from data provided by Amadeus and Visa respectively, which revealed further behavioural insights of modern-day Asian Business Travellers.

“Asia is the largest business travel market in the world today, commanding 38% of global business travel spend worth USD1 trillion[1].  This is expected to grow four times faster than North America’s to gain a further 5% of the global pie[2].

However, as research on this region has been lacking, this report on Asian Business Travellers is extremely timely; we hope it will help travel managers to better understand Asian Business Travellers and maximise the opportunities of this dynamic and burgeoning segment of travellers,” said Mr Andrew Phua, Director of Exhibitions and Conferences, Singapore Tourism Board.

Asia’s Empowered Travellers – Where Business Meets Leisure

With travellers placing a strong association between business and leisure travel, key to the study is how the business travel industry has become susceptible to the same disruptive forces of the leisure travel market.

For example: both online and mobile digital platforms are gaining popularity as travel booking channels, sharing economy accommodation is increasingly considered as lodging options for corporate travel, and low-cost carriers are capturing a greater share of business travel expenditures – some 41 percent of Asian Business Travellers surveyed have even indicated their willingness to fly low-cost carriers for business.

​Empowered by these evolving travel trends and influx of travel choices, 53 percent have acknowledged convenience as the prime reason for deviating outside of company travel policies. In fact, convenience supersedes other factors for Asian Business Travellers when planning their business trips, and is a top priority across various ages, cultures and company types.

Asian Business Travellers – Distinct, Diverse, Dynamic

While the rise of Asian Business Travellers poses significant opportunities for the industry, travel companies will first need to understand the distinctive characteristics of the region’s heterogeneous markets.

The study revealed four distinct archetypes of Asian Business Travellers, each with different motivations of travel.  Differences between travellers from emerging or developed markets, whose habits and preferences were largely influenced by their home country and cultural background.

  • Stereotypical Suits: These made up 32 percent of those surveyed, and were typically travellers over 35 years old (61% of Stereotypical Suits) who valued convenience above other factors. This archetype is more pronounced in India than in other markets, where travellers are more adept at adopting digital platforms to facilitate travel processes.
  • Service Seekers: Accounting for another third of those surveyed, Chinese and Indonesian business travellers form the bulk of this group (59% of Service Seekers) who place a high premium on service and other ‘feel good’ factors. These travellers tend to look for distinctive travel experiences, with 94% of the segment willing to pay for additional services – making them the most lucrative targets for travel operators.
  • Points Maximisers: Comprising a majority of Singaporeans and Japanese business travellers (67% of Point Maximisers), this group sees travelling as an opportunity to maximise loyalty rewards, prioritising comfort over cost – only 25 percent of them are willing to fly low-cost carriers. Interestingly, Singaporeans and Japanese are more budget-conscious than travellers from other countries.
  • Belt Tighteners: This segment of travellers (17% of those surveyed) is the most value-conscious, 73 percent of which travel mostly around domestic markets.

Travel operators will thus have to offer more individualised travel experiences, whilst ensuring greater levels of service and convenience at the same time.

From streamlining processes and offering amenities on-the-go, to creating unique experiences and enhancing loyalty programmes, there is a greater responsibility for companies to draw learnings from industry disruptors, refocus on core strengths, and explore new industry partnerships and networks.

[1] GBTA BTI™ Outlook – Annual Global Report & Forecast, 2014

[2] Ibid. 

For more information on the Asian Business Report, please click here.

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Founded by two travel and technology professionals with years of experience in Asia, Representasia specialises in sales & marketing representation throughout Southeast Asia for travel/hospitality technology providers and travel-related startups, as well as providing marketing consultancy services for hotels and travel businesses in the region.

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