Smart partnerships and in-trip approach key for travel agents to tap into APAC’s business travel boom

Image: Renaud Nicolle

By Renaud Nicolle, Vice President, Business Travel, Travel Channels Asia Pacific, Amadeus

Image: Renaud Nicolle

Business travel is booming.
Learn how to capitalize from this growing market here.

Business travel within Asia is growing at twice the pace of the rest of the world and even looks set to overtake the top-spending Americas within the next 10 years[1], making it an increasingly lucrative segment.

To capitalize on this huge growth opportunity APAC’s travel agents need to understand the unique habits and motivations of Asia’s business travelers, who tend to have a very different mindset from those that travel for leisure.

In-trip internet use is currently one the biggest differences between business and leisure travelers in the region. While leisure travelers rely mainly on Wi-Fi, our latest Journey of Me research found that business travelers are happy to pay to stay connected, with half (52%) of business travelers from Singapore purchasing a local sim card for internet access when overseas for work, which mirrors the general trend across APAC.

Another unique trait of Asia’s business travelers is that they find trip recommendations more relevant than leisure travelers do. Perhaps surprisingly given they travel on the company’s dime, the recommendations that they most value are suggestions to save them money (34%), followed by tips to ensure their safety (31%) and make their travel more comfortable (29%).

Asia is also starting to see the rise of a business traveler sub-group – the so-called ‘bleisure’ travelers – who combine work travel with wanting to enjoy local leisure activities while they’re overseas. As more millennial and Gen Z professionals climb the career ladder, ‘bleisure’ looks here to stay and as a result employers themselves are becoming increasingly accepting of the practice.

All of these trends present a big opening for Asia’s business travel agents (BTAs) to grow revenue and loyalty by creating services that cater to the ‘new’ needs of today’s business travelers, whilst also helping businesses themselves to navigate the unchartered territory of ‘bleisure’ travel.

In-trip presents one of the biggest opportunities.

Given Asia’s business travelers stay highly-connected when they’re overseas and place a premium on convenience, business travel agents can use their trusted position to become an intermediary for useful in-country services that fulfil dual business-leisure needs – from internet access, to parking, lounge access, restaurant recommendations and more.

To get this right, BTAs need to take a mobile-first approach to ensure that their mobile platform is fully optimized. Personalization is also imperative.

In short, in-trip offerings should be tailored as much as possible to both the trip location and the preferences of the individual traveler. Our research shows that business travelers from different countries tend to expect and want different things when in-trip, and the same will be true for travelers of different ages, seniorities, sectors and interests. The most successful BTAs will be the ones that can take a ‘concierge’ approach, informed by demographic, professional and behavioral data – the more targeted, the better.

Beyond in-trip services, another significant opportunity for BTAs is to directly cater for the leisure portion of the trip too by sharing timely content and offers related to the destination, to inform and inspire.

Offering in-trip, B2C services will be a new area for a lot of BTAs, so building a local network of reliable partners will be the best entry point for most. Given the responsibility and duty-of-care that BTAs owe to their business customers it’s critical that they apply the same level of stringent vetting and due diligence to choosing any partners that they work with for their ‘bleisure’ offer too, to ensure that they uphold the levels of safety, ethics and service that corporations expect for their employees, regardless of whether the traveler engages the service in their work or leisure capacity.

BTAs will also need to think carefully about the tone and style of their content if this is their first foray into business-to-consumer communication.

Ultimately, business travel agents should never lose sight of the fact that they are, first and foremost, providing a business service. But, as the nature of business travel itself changes there’s an opportunity, and a need, for BTAs to evolve their offering. BTAs that do this well will not only be able to solidify their relationship with their corporate clients through improved traveler service, but will also be able to unlock additional revenue in the process.

[1] World Travel and Tourism Council

Learn more about business travel opportunities and visit the Amadeus Business travel agencies resource page.

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