Don Birch, President and CEO of Abacus International, one of Asia Pacific’s travel facilitator, recently shared his key predictions for Asia Pacific travel in the year ahead.
“The growing number of travellers is fast changing the travel landscape in Asia. Their needs are becoming more complex and demanding. For example, mass travellers prefer the traditional travel agent service, competitive pricing and travel more often; while on the other end, the elite travellers seek authentic experiences and customized itineraries,” Mr Birch predicted.
“Travel is no longer a luxury for most people throughout Asia, it is a necessity. This demand from travel is for both business and leisure travellers, and although airlines continue to be affected by higher fuel prices, the increase in ticket prices and added fuel surcharges have yet to deter the Asia Pacific traveller,” he said.
Not only are habits changing, but according to a recent MasterCard survey, Asia’s aging population is also producing a new group of wealthy frequent flyers with more leisure time. Household incomes are rising with the number above US$100,000 per annum set to increase by 13% to 17 million by 2014. Similarly, their travel spend is predicted to double in 10 years, reaching US$17.6 billion.
Female travellers are becoming the fastest-growing sector in Asia Pacific. The survey claims that by 2010, an estimated US$13.4 billion will be spent by women in four leading Asia Pacific destinations – Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok.
Moreover, women are not only shaping travel demand patterns by travelling independently, they are also the travel organisers and decision makers for the entire family, making around 70% of all travel decisions, according to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).
Mr Birch predicted that although 2005 was a golden year for LCCs in Asia, 2006 will see new LCC players as well as further consolidation of LCCs in other markets.
“The low cost carrier (LCC) in Asia has begun to mature and expand. This expansion is good for the entire travel industry, stimulating demand for travel across the board, driving the development of tourism infrastructure, creating jobs and delivering choice and convenience for travellers. Airports such as the new Budget Terminal at Changi Airport in Singapore opening in March this year will attract more visitors and expand the market for both LCCs and network carriers,” he said.
“With the need to operate under tighter costs and offering increased discount fares, LCCs will increasingly see the benefits of working with Travel Agents and GDS’s. As LCCs find their place in Asia, more will adopt GDS distribution, particularly in markets where the effectiveness of direct distribution is limited by the availability of the Internet.
“Full service airlines will look at new ways to incentivise travel and provide good deals for their customers on both their long-haul and short haul routes. It is anticipated that the business traveller will remain one of the key customers of full service traveller, retaining loyalty for their reliability in service, flight times and added membership and alliance benefits,” Mr Birch predicted.
Abacus believes the Internet will perhaps be the single-most important factor in the future and growth of the travel agent industry.