Whether you’re born and bred in Asia-Pacific or have come here from farther shores, it’s crucial for you as a business owner or manager to understand what matters to Asian business travellers.

After all, business travel has been on the rise in Asia, and it’s not going to slow down anytime soon. Business travel within this region is growing at double the speed of the rest of the world. It is projected to grow more than twice as fast as in Europe and four times as fast as in North America. Since 2000, business travel spending in Asia has more than doubled, and will only continue to rise.

China is expected to remain the world’s largest business travel market even though the economy is slowing down. On the other hand, the US market – which was formerly the world leader in this sector – is predicted to grow at a slower pace than the global average.

You may have experienced the same growth in your company, sending staff more frequently on trips abroad. But how well do you understand your travellers’ preferences, motivations, and habits? Do they come back satisfied with their experience, or disappointed and perhaps even disgruntled?

Understanding your travellers’ needs and preferences will help improve their experience, allowing them to perform better during the trip.

Know your traveller: the four Asian business traveller archetypes

A study commissioned by the Singapore Tourism Board concludes that Asian business travellers fall under one out of four archetypes. It surveyed 2,565 individuals from key Asian markets such as China, Indonesia, India, Singapore and Japan.

Stereotypical Suits: They embody the traditional image of a business traveller, and value convenience during their trip more than anything else.

Belt Tighteners: They are the most value-conscious, and always look for the cheapest option. They would rather save money than spend more to boost convenience.

Points Maximisers: They view travel as a way to maximise their loyalty rewards from preferred travel providers. To them, perks are the most important aspect of travel.

Service Seekers: They place the most emphasis on travel experiences and are willing to spend more on additional services and facilities, as well as to make the most of leisure opportunities.

As each archetype gravitates towards different preferences, it is crucial for companies to gauge whether their corporate travel policy makes room for each. Thus, it helps to understand the archetypes deeply and find out what truly matters to them.

Employee empowerment

The same study shows that Asian business travellers have more flexibility when it comes to planning their trips, as compared to their Western counterparts. For example, they have gained the freedom to choose their hotel, carrier, and even how long their trip would last.  

According to McKinsey, Asian business travellers desire more freedom when it comes to their travel booking processes. They prefer to make independent bookings via online travel agents, directly with a provider, or using their company’s online business travel booking tool.

Technology has played a part in fuelling the desire for more flexibility. Travel apps and software are streamlining the booking process by making information accessible, allowing travellers to do price comparisons and find alternatives, as well as make independent bookings.

Hence, companies within Asia are using such tools to empower their employees to have more leeway in their travel bookings.

Convenience and a hassle-free journey

The same study by the Singapore Tourism Board reported that 53 per cent of Asian business travellers were willing to deviate from their company’s travel policies due to convenience.

For example, when it comes to choosing flights, they would look for direct flights and convenient schedules. As for hotels, factors such as high-speed Wi-Fi and nearness to work take precedence.

This means companies may have to rewrite their corporate travel policies to make business travel a better experience for modern employees.

Leisure time for travel experiences

More than half of the Asian business travellers surveyed view travel as a job perk rather than a chore. This is because they tend to combine business and leisure travel. Asian business travellers, especially millennials, are almost twice as likely to book a business trip that overlaps with a weekend, as compared to their Europe peers.

Apart from that, 48 per cent of the survey respondents indicated interest in extending business trips for leisure, with higher proportions in India (61 per cent), China (59 per cent) and Indonesia (76 per cent). Asian business travellers were also much more likely to enjoy their travel experiences rather than material reasons.

There are some factors that Asian business travellers consider when deciding whether or not to extend a business trip for leisure. The more common ones are whether they have been to the destination before and if there is a specific attraction at the destination they would like to visit.

The future of Asian business travel

Clearly, Asian business travel trends are changing. The modern employee has different expectations for their overseas trips than their older counterparts did. As business travellers are essentially your company’s ambassadors abroad, it’s best to meet them halfway and make the trip a positive experience for both the company and the employee.

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