Asia is the world’s biggest market for business travel, accounting for 38 percent of about $1 trillion in annual spending.
And in the next few years, its importance will only grow, as the market is expected to expand four times as quickly as the North American market and more than twice as fast as the European market.
With Asia’s position growing, the industry must work harder to understand the needs of the Asian business traveler, which we define as those based in the region.
To help get a clear picture of the needs of this important segment, we surveyed more than 2,500 business travelers in China, India, Indonesia, Japan, and Singapore and interviewed 19 corporate-travel managers in various industries in the region. In addition, we analyzed the booking and spending patterns of Asia’s business travelers, using data provided by Amadeus and Visa.
The study underscored nuances that must be addressed to gain these travelers’ business. Three stand out. First, Asia’s business travelers are gaining greater autonomy in their travel decisions, making it critical to address their preferences, not just those of their employers. Second, they value convenience above all else. And finally, Asia’s business travelers can be divided into four archetypes, each with its own distinct set of needs and preferences.
Asian business travelers are gaining greater autonomy
Business travelers in Asia have an unexpected degree of autonomy when making travel plans, especially in areas such as booking flights and hotels. Our survey found that 69 percent of respondents are able to choose their airlines, either from a preapproved list or without restrictions.
In fact, this included 11 percent with no constraints on either provider or price. Similarly, 74 percent of respondents said they have the same degree of freedom in picking a hotel, of which 9 percent said they have no restrictions whatsoever.
Yet despite this high degree of autonomy, Asia’s business travelers want even more.
Our survey found that the top three booking methods are all autonomous: the strongest preference is to book travel independently through online travel agents, the next is to book directly with providers, and the third is to use their company’s online-booking tool.
Companies also are recognizing the benefit of offering employees more flexibility and choice, with many reporting increased compliance and reduced administrative costs. Techniques such as gamification (where employees are rewarded for choosing lower-cost travel options) are also emerging to promote compliant, cost-conscious behaviors.