BTN Group’s first Business Travel Trends and Forecasts conference in Asia Pacific, which took place in Singapore at Swissotel The
Stamford on 17 July 2023, attracted 85 corporate travel managers and
procurement professionals during the one-day conference.
Themed “Business Travel Trends & Forecasts”, the event covered
topics such as business travel forecasts; the evolution of airline
distribution and its impact to APAC; how to reset travel buyers’ data
management strategy; overcoming hurdles to business travel innovation;
and maximising travel buyers’ relationships with their travel management
M&C Asia highlights key takeaway points of discussion:
Data outlook vs the reality on the ground
IATA has forecasted an upward recovery trend for APAC in 2024 where
travel is expected to even exceed 2019 by 3%, and hotel RevPAR recovery
is largely due to demand-driven factors. However, the short-term growth
outlook for APAC will be muted.
Inflation has peaked in APAC and other regions but it will remain
elevated this year, said Michal Nhu, senior economist, head of global
hotels forecasting, CBRE. “We are still forecasting technical recession
in the first quarter of 2024 and the second quarter of 2024 (in the US).
CBRE expects interest rates to peak by this year end after another
round of Fed interest rate hikes in Q3 2023.”
Nhu added that whilst RevPAR exceeded 2019 level in nine out of 15
key markets in Q2 2023, occupancy recovery is still lagging and there
will be a slower hotel supply growth as compared to 10 years ago.
Varun Mehra, senior consultant, CWT Solutions Group, displayed a
range of airline average segment prices (ASP) across the region,
highlighting the steep increase in airfares for intercontinental
regions. In China, this was US$1,958 in 2023 compared to US$1,083 in
2019. In Singapore, it was US$2,209 and US$1,700 in the same period
With the changing workforce, Mehra recommended that TMCs should
“right-size their programme” and relook at their platform of suppliers
and reduce leakage in compliance.
Constant battle between price and sustainability
Corporate travel managers grapple with the dilemma of choosing
cheaper airlines for cost savings, which may involve non-direct routes
and increased carbon emissions. Buyers also acknowledged that it was not
easy to balance this even with the emergence of sustainable fuel.
Besides sharing transport through apps that help employees track if
they are in the same location, another suggestion was to create a
pre-approval booking platform where employees are directed to a page on
their online booking tool to see how many trees would be destroyed if
they flew a certain route.
Such measurable and education techniques are effective, said, Brenda
Quek, Asia-Pacific Travel, Meetings and Events Program and Engagement
Airline NDCs gain traction, but integration still a challenge
NDCs (New Distribution Capability) from airlines are gaining
traction, with 90% of the audience agreeing that consuming NDC-piped
content is a necessity for TMCs. Currently, out of the 350 carriers in
the market, some 80 carriers have NDC content. The challenge lies in
effectively integrating fragmented information and enhancing platforms
to utilise such content optimally.
Emphasising duty of care
Ensuring greater duty of care and measuring carbon footprints
effectively become essential considerations for businesses in today's
competitive travel landscape. “There used to be a clear distinction
between leisure and business, but now, even with higher prices,
(leisure) people are still travelling and now you are competing with
leisure travel,” said Mehra.
Rising focus on employee wellbeing
The focus of TMC programs is shifting from cost reduction and
compliance to prioritising employee wellbeing, which should also become a
component of the Request for Proposal.
Behavioural management is crucial to understand how to retain talent
and in turn, drive the most savings for employees who travel a lot.
This could come in the form of a report and being able to see “a
dashboard” to notify travellers who are burning out.