Affluent travellers across Asia Pacific are looking for deeper and more comprehensive relationships with their travel advisors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, research presented to ILTM Asia Pacific Virtual delegates this week indicates.
Around 500 high-net-worth individuals in Asia Pacific took part in the survey conducted by Altiant in June 2021, with the majority saying they expect to use a travel advisor to book at least some of their holidays in the next year.
“We’re all aware that luxury travel has changed significantly as a result of the pandemic. Therefore, the travel agents’ place has changed as well, so if anything, from the data we’ve collected travel agents have become even more important to many wealthy travellers, as they look to them for help with the complexity of travel,” said Meryam Schneider, the VP marketing and partnerships of French luxury research company, Altiant.
Altiant shared their research this week with delegates of the ILTM APAC Virtual show. Those surveyed came from six APAC countries – Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.
Citing feedback from ILTM APAC buyers, Schneider said there has been an increase in enquiries from consumers who had previously not used a travel advisor before. Selling points for why the change of mind included the travel advisors’ knowledge, flexibility, specialisation and convenience.
On the consumer side of ITLM’s survey, of respondents who have used a travel agent since the start of 2020, more than half (54%) are using them for all their travel services, 21% for booking experiences only, 13% for flights and 12% for hotels.
Among the key factors why wealthy APAC travellers are utilising travel agents since the start of the pandemic include: being up to date with the latest travel regulations; the flexibility to adjust to current uncertainties; their local knowledge and specialisation; finding the best special offers; and the most common reason – convenience.
International travel influence
Family and friends were the strongest influence on decision making for international travel within the next 12 months, with those polled indicating partners (63%), then family members (59%) and friends (40%).
Travel advisors (31%) were the next most influential source, followed closely by doctors/medical staff/therapists (30%), social media advertisement (27%), a work colleague (26%), TV/newspaper advertisement (26%), concierge services (21%) and social media influencers (21%).
Schneider said there is a potential opportunity here for travel agents to work with health professionals to suggest trips that can have significant physical and medical benefits.
The China market said travel agents would be the most influential factor in decision making for an international holiday within a year, at 53% of those surveyed, followed by one-third of those from Japan and one-quarter of Australians.
Added responsibilities and requirements
Many travel agents may have to assume several new responsibilities that they didn’t have to do previously, with nearly half (47%) saying they expect their advisor to provide clarity about cancellations, refund processes, travel insurance, and the majority agreeing the booking agent should be monitoring the latest government advice on COVID status at destination and providing information on the hygiene of the resort or location.
Over one-quarter (28%) of APAC travellers expect their advisor to offer more alternative travel packages to less crowded destinations, and about one-sixth are most likely to want private transport options, such as private jets and private islands.
Another one of the newer requirements of affluent travellers is an even greater focus on sustainability, where two-thirds now expect to see information on this when agents create itineraries.
Evolution of service
“Travel agents should know their value now more than ever, and even though fees have been squeezed. Many wealthy travellers are willing to spend more for comprehensive packages. The onus is then on the professional to create special memorable trips to cater for this growing demand,” Schneider said.
“There will certainly remain challenges ahead, but we see clear signs of optimism. These travellers that are often seeing the increased value of using travel agents, and they’re also becoming more demanding and expecting more for their money.”
“Many agents are evolving their service and also assuming new responsibilities. In doing so they’re becoming even more valuable and moving beyond purely commercial relationships,” Schneider said.
“Travellers are likely to remember those that treated them well during the pandemic so this evolution in the agent/consumer relationship is a really good opportunity to deepen and build on that,” she concluded.
ILTM Asia Pacific Virtual ran from 20-22 July 2021.
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