The AsPac region is seeing positive growth as business travellers take advantage of a more thriving economic climate, according to Hogg Robinson Group (HRG), the world class corporate travel services company. HRG reflects on an improved business environment and the renewed energy and vibrancy in the region.
James Stevenson, Executive Vice President, HRG AsPac, said: “We have seen massive growth in volume in the region over the past year, with some areas almost reaching 2008 levels. The Asian economy was resilient through the recession, but certainly it was affected and business travel declined there like everywhere else. But the Asian market has a business culture that respects the true value of face to face meetings more than any other region in the world.”
“Now we are seeing increased business travel to countries such as Singapore, with second quarter GDP growth figures of over 20% (1), and increased business travel is reflecting this. At HRG we are well positioned to support our clients in the region. In Singapore we have increased staff numbers by 25% and in countries like India and China we are increasingly offering our expert staff as ‘implants’ working from within clients’ offices.”
HRG’s presence in AsPac is well established with full ownership or majority joint ventures in all key driver markets, including Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and China. Its unique business travel offering caters for the growing use of technology and online booking tools in the region, and the increased demand for data, including pre-and post trip travel reports.
By demonstrating an ability to deliver real savings and flexibility at a time when travel budgets have come under scrutiny, HRG has won or retained a number of AsPac regional bids with companies such as Barclays, HSBC, Diageo and Rolls Royce. As part of a global win this year, HRG is also now working for Novartis in the region, as well as winning business with Schlumberger and Ericsson.
HRG has seen a notable trend in the growth in regional bids and the consolidation of travel management into regional hubs. This has been demonstrated by the retention of a contract for the AsPac region with Procter & Gamble, assisting with consolidation of their travel management into Singapore, and with the newly merged Bank of America Merrill Lynch, managing their travel across 12 countries in the region through a hub in Hong Kong.
“We understand that, for many travellers, much of Asia can represent difficult territory with strong cultural differences and in some areas personal security risks, but the same lessons from the rest of the world can be applied here. We have seen continued demand for traveller tracking tools following the Jakarta bombings, riots in Bangkok, earthquakes and the volcanic ash cloud over Europe. Travel managers are starting to recognise the importance of risk management as part of their overall travel programme and are educating their travellers about the importance of staying within the company’s travel policy.”
With further rapid business growth expected in the region, investment in infrastructure and connections continues to grow. Regional and international carriers are expanding routes and entering new markets in Asia in response to forecasts for rising traffic. HRG has seen many multinational companies taking advantage of new low cost carriers that are growing in popularity in the region. AirAsia, for example, has recently added premium services for the business traveller and is featuring increasingly in corporate travel policies.
The Formula 1 race calendar focuses international attention on Singapore, Japan and South Korea. It puts added pressure on hotel demand in the host cities. In Beijing, there is still an over-supply of rooms dating back to the Olympics, and the Shanghai Expo has brought some extra business to China’s most populous city. The $5.5 billion Marina Bay Sands development opened this year in Singapore and has provided further capacity for meetings & conference activity in the city, once again drawing attention to Singapore as a leading business destination.
AsPac is generally a technology savvy region. Smartphone use is high and so mobile solutions are popular. Online booking adoption is also growing. In a keynote industry perspective to the ACTE Asia Pacific Education Conference in Singapore in August, James Stevenson said that corporate travel managers in AsPac are being asked to be more traveller-centric, and to not only allow self-service but to actively encourage it.
“At HRG we have identified an upward trend amongst our AsPac clients keen on making efficiencies in the booking process. Companies are mandating online booking tools (OBT) from outside Asia to this region and local companies are starting to see the value. Most of our clients are either closely looking at OBTs or are in the throws of piloting a roll out. We believe over the next three years, OBT booking volumes will grow exponentially in Asia as the tools, carriers and corporations evolve and adapt to the new processes around OBTs.”