Nearly two-thirds of Asia-Pacific business travellers surveyed are raring to go for professional and personal reasons, but they also want flexibility from employers on how their trips will be conducted, according to new research conducted by SAP Concur.
‚ÄúCovid-19 has upended business travel in the past year and a half. Yet, it has also reaffirmed business travel‚Äôs importance in forging business and personal connections, and enabling career advancement,‚ÄĚ said Carl Jones, vice president and head of strategy for SAP Concur Asia Pacific.
‚ÄúWhile uncertainty continues to linger around travel curbs, firms can support business travellers by updating travel policies to provide more flexibility in flight and accommodation selection, better protecting employees‚Äô health and safety. Then as vaccinations progress and travel bubbles form in the coming months, they will be better positioned to enable safe travel, facilitating business growth and talent retention.‚ÄĚ
Respondents to the survey carried out in Singapore, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand believe that the current travel hiatus is hurting their careers ‚ąí by impeding their business goals ‚ąí and personal lives.
While they hope to restart their in-person meetings soon ‚ąí 95% are ‚Äúwilling‚ÄĚ to travel in the next 12 months, including 63% who are ‚Äúvery willing‚ÄĚ to do so ‚Äď they also want greater control over how they will travel, so that their safety and health can be better safeguarded amid the pandemic.
Notable findings from the study of 1,050 APAC business travellers include:
Travellers believe their career success depends on a return to business travel
Like their global counterparts, four in five APAC respondents (81% in APAC vs. 80% globally) worry that the inability to increase business travel will affect them personally.
These concerns include:
- The difficulty in developing and maintaining business connections (51% in APAC compared to 45% globally)
- Not advancing in their career (39% compared to 33% globally)
- Making less money (39% compared to 38% globally)
On the business front, APAC respondents fret that if their organisation does not increase business travel in the year, it will be harder to sign new deals (40%), build new relationships (39%) and renew contracts with existing clients (39%).
In fact, 9% are afraid their business will shut down, and 14% worry that they will lose their jobs. For those who are very frequent travellers, this latter figure jumps to 22%. These grave concerns reveal respondents‚Äô perceptions that business travel is a vital vehicle to strengthen business relationships for career success, and experience new places to broaden personal horizons.
Changing traveller expectations forcing organisations to rethink their travel policies
Covid-19 has also altered power dynamics in the workplace. Business travellers will consider their options if employers do not match their expectations.
- More than half of APAC business travellers (54%) will make career changes if their company does not provide the necessary policies or measures to protect their health and safety.
- About 37% say they will ask to limit travel if their firm does not implement policies or measures to help protect their health and safety, while 16% will go as far as looking for a different position.
Flexibility helps employees feel safe
Flexibility is now the most pressing need for APAC business travellers, ahead of their vaccination-related demands (74% vs. 64%).
- This includes everything from planning through the completion of their trips. For instance, respondents cited a preference to choose their preferred accommodation (49%) and mode of travel (43%).
- Once they are on the road, almost all APAC business travellers (93%) expect changes to their travel routine, including more frequently staying in larger hotels (41%), prioritising domestic trips (39%), and using a personal vehicle instead of public transportation (37%)
‚ÄúEmployees are ready to return to business travel, but on their own terms,‚ÄĚ said Jones. ‚ÄúThe actions that businesses take in the next 12 months to protect traveller safety and health could make or break their ability to acquire and retain valuable employees amid a competitive market for talent.‚ÄĚ