Why APAC groups are going for the long haul

It’s more than just a low pound that is encouraging APAC groups to look to Europe for meetings and incentives.

Europe is getting increasingly popular among corporate groups for more reasons than one.
Europe is getting increasingly popular among corporate groups for more reasons than one. Photo Credit: Adobe/william87

European economies are facing a challenging winter, with the threat of recession, supply chain issues and rising energy prices. The UK in particular has faced a challenging few weeks with two prime ministers in recent months, increased inflation, a weak pound and demand for housing falling at its fastest pace since the start of the pandemic.

Whilst the lower pound could certainly be viewed by some as a pull factor to the UK, Sanjay Seth, managing director of BCD Meetings & Events doesn’t believe there is a particular focus on the UK as a favoured outbound destination from Asia at present — rather, it’s Europe as a whole that is proving attractive.

“[Several] destinations in Europe are proving to be popular – we have Portugal, Finland and Budapest as some examples of confirmed locations for incentive trips in early 2023, “ he says. “Travel within the APAC region excluding China is booming as well. Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam in Southeast Asia as well as Australia and New Zealand are very popular. Now that Japan is opening and relaxing regulations even further, it will be a huge market for incentive travel within APAC and beyond.”

IIma Afzal, strategy director at Jack Morton Singapore, says the low British pound paired with the easing of international travel restrictions is encouraging groups across Asia to take advantage of foreign exchange rates.

“This may in turn see a temporary rise in long-haul travel from Asia to Europe [as a whole],” he says. “The UK’s low pound is indeed a welcome draw for Singaporeans as they are indulging in post pandemic travel escapism.”

Petrina Goh, regional commercial director, SEA & Hong Kong at CWT Meetings & Events says the agency is receiving a lot of enquiries and requests from clients in APAC who are eager to resume long-haul incentive trips to popular destinations in Europe such as Rome and Barcelona, now that travel restrictions have been mostly relaxed.

“However, travel prices in Europe have skyrocketed as a result of demand-supply dynamics and broader inflationary pressures,” she says. “Hotel prices in markets like Germany, France, and the UK are around 18-23% higher than last year, surpassing 2019 levels, according to our 2023 business travel global forecast. In Ireland we expect to see a year-on-year increase of nearly 40% in average daily rates. The weaker euro and pound will help soften the blow, to a certain extent, for APAC planners.”

While there is definitely heightened interest in traveling to the major European cities, Goh adds that the challenges around availability and higher prices are prompting planners to cast a wide net and also consider destinations such as Iceland, South Africa, Fiji, Japan and the Philippines.

For Jack Morton’s Afzal, the potential for travel to key Europe and Asian destinations lies in the hands of Chinese tourists. Whilst China’s population is still tackling Covid-zero policies, an ease in restrictions and the possible return of Chinese tourism could prolong any potential long-term trend of Asian inbound tourists in Europe and Asia.

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