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16 Oct, 2006

Business Executives Push for “Fast-Track” Past Security Hassles

Business executives and their travel managers are beginning to push for speedier passage through increasingly tight aviation security queues, according to a survey by London-based aviation consultancy Ascend.

While corporate travel managers (those who handle the travel plans of the giant global multinationals) said that passenger security whilst travelling is the most important issue, around 80% of travel managers, travel agents and travel suppliers agreed that “more needs to be done for business travellers regarding airport security.”

The survey covered 219 travel agents (60% independents, 71% majoring in business travel), 167 corporate travel managers (25% working for companies with more than 11,000 employees, 14% had booked more than 500 flights in last 6 months) and 217 travel suppliers (83% of whom were Director or Chief Executive level and 12% were based in China).

It was presented by Peter Morris, Chief Economist of the London-based Ascend Consultancy Services at an annual conference of business travel managers and convention organisers in Pattaya last week.

The survey showed that there was no objection to the increased security, which all the respondents agreed was a priority consideration for travellers.

However, asked if “more needs to be done to improve the efficiency of airport security processes for business travellers,” more than 90% of all respondents agreed or strongly agreed.

Inspite of the hassles, however, business travel is expected to stay strong, with corporate travel managers forecasting a 5.6% increase in the number of flights booked in the next 12 months and 5% increase in budgets.

The survey covered a broad range of subjects of concern to business travellers, include travel costs, booking facilities, mileage schemes, and low-cost airlines, among others. It reflected many of the changes taking place in the way business travellers travel, and book travel.

The survey showed that although the local travel agency is currently the most used service method to purchase travel in Asia Pacific, managers believe this will significantly change towards online bookings, and a large majority indicate transaction fees will completely replace commissions in five years.

Many business travellers are also beginning to use low-cost airlines. Although the lack of a mileage programme or lounges is not seen as an issue by most of the travel managers, they are more concerned by the lack of ticket flexibility and the limited number — so far — of available routes.

Increasingly, the Internet has been upgraded from being just a source of travel information in previous surveys to a booking tool for flights and hotel accommodation, and everyone in the supply chain is having to adapt to this.

The survey showed that reliable and high speed internet connections as well as helpline are seen as the two most important features for corporate travellers whilst they travel.

In five years, travel agents estimate that 53% of air seats tickets will be sold directly on the internet and that a further 52% will be sold directly by them,

However, they are becoming increasingly worried by the growing price competition (cited as the major threat by one-quarter of responding agents) as well as worries about new competitors entering the industry.

In response, travel agents believe they will have to differentiate themselves and attract corporate bookings through personal services. At the same time, their expertise will remain in demand for ‘handling complex itineraries’ and justify the fees they will have to charge in future.

Also coming under question is the future role of global distribution systems like Abacus and Amadeus. Travel agents indicated that access/bookings to the airlines via one single channel and e-ticket tracking will be ‘very important’ and ‘essential’ in future.

The survey showed that travel suppliers believe the online travel management companies will be far ahead in terms of volume growth in the next five years in Asia Pacific, but financial institutions and banks which handle the travel payments are expected to be fastest growing for profitability.

Among the hotel industry suppliers, most suppliers believe Asia Pacific will witness more hotel consolidation in the years to come. There was also a majority view that there are “too many five-star” hotels and not enough mid-market hotels.

In another development, the annual event at which the survey was presented will move back to Bangkok in 2007 after two years in Pattaya. It will be held at the upcoming Central World Hotel and Convention Centre in Rajprasong.

Mr Gerd Steeb, President of Central Hotels and Resorts, said that the new centre in downtown Bangkok will have a total exhibition space of 17,000 sq m and a 505-room hotel, which will be complemented by nearly 7,000 more rooms of other hotels in the immediate vicinity, making the venue within walking distance or easily accessible by Skytrain.

Bearing the long-winded title of Incentive Travel & Conventions, Meetings Asia (IT&CMA) and Corporate Travel World (CTW), the event is organised by the Singapore-based company TTG Asia Media. This year’s show was attended by more than 1,300 delegates from 40 countries, including 270 exhibiting companies, of which 41 were from Thailand.

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