Collinson study shows 77% of frequent fliers in Asia expect to travel in next 12 months

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The days of social distancing in airports are gone as the industry rapidly recovers. (PHOTO: Shutterstock) research released by Collinson’s Priority Pass has revealed that pre-pandemic frequent flyers are ready to get back on a plane, as 77 percent of travellers in the Asia-Pacific region expect to travel more in the next 12 months (from March 2021) – further underlining the pent-up desire to travel as soon as possible. Yet, despite travellers longing to hit the skies, entry restrictions – such as the need to be a resident – remain in place for many countries in the region with most requiring several weeks of quarantine upon entry because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The global survey analyses the opinions of over 46,000 members of Collinson’s Priority Pass traveller experience programme, and reveals that leisure travel will make up more than half of trips (55 percent) taken in the next year. While business travel will recover more slowly, there is demand from frequent flyers for it to return, with the expectation that business travel will account for 45 percent of flights taken in the next year globally.

After more than a year since COVID-19 first hit the travel industry, vaccination roll-outs have brought a glimmer of hope – with 41 percent of APAC respondents stating that being vaccinated against COVID-19 would be the top reason for encouraging them to travel, while 33 percent said that the lifting of international travel bans would be their top reason. When questioned on the possibility of travelling by air in the next 12 months, 78 percent of members globally expressed feelings of excitement and 61 percent felt confident; findings which will likely be reassuring to the travel industry.

Globally, international travel will likely increase year-on-year. However, survey respondents project that domestic travel is still set to make a greater recovery than international travel during the next 12 months – at 64% versus 59%, when compared with 2019 travel levels, respectively.

Around the world, the desire to keep health risks to a minimum has resulted in key changes to the way people experience airport travel, with the aim of keeping external contact to a minimum. Since the pandemic began:

  • 24 percent are more likely to use unmanned facilities, such as biometric passport kiosks
  • 48 percent are more likely to use airport lounge access than they did before the pandemic
  • 20 percent are more likely to pre-order and collect their food and drinks before departure
  • 49 percent indicated that social distancing and contactless transactions at the airport are of a relatively high importance when travelling
Because Singapore Airlines has no domestic network, its Changi Airport base is still almost a ghost town in 2021. A lone student waits to say goodbye to a friend in a nearly deserted departure hall. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

Despite Asia’s low vaccination rate in comparison to the EU and US, 79 percent of travellers cite a growing confidence in the safety of air travel as more people are vaccinated. While vaccines have yet to be fully rolled out globally, their availability continues to generate hope, as do the discussions around digital health certificates; with 82 percent of APAC respondents saying they would be happy to use one – which is even higher than the global average of 74 percent. Globally, 76 percent of members say they would feel confident to travel internationally if getting vaccinated became a mandatory measure. This sentiment is echoed by a further 64 percent of travellers who agree that COVID-19 testing and the use of digital health certificates would encourage them to travel abroad. 

The survey also shows that while quarantine regulations continue to be enforced around the world, 60 percent of APAC travellers do not feel it is an essential safety measure; while a further 69 percent see it as a major deterrent for international travel. When reasons behind this largely negative sentiment towards quarantine are explored in depth, 83 percent blame the additional costs involved and 69 percent also cite the unpredictable nature of quarantine rules, while 62 percent are reluctant to spend so much time indoors; a finding which is likely linked to an increasing emphasis on mental wellbeing when travelling.

An Etihad pilot getting vaccinated against COVID-19. (PHOTO: Etihad)

“In APAC, it is clear that travellers are ready to get moving again if the right protocols are in place – so we need to focus our efforts on delivering a return journey that is seamless, safe, enjoyable and helps build on these initial signs of traveller confidence and excitement,” said Todd Handcock, president, Asia-Pacific of Collinson. “Working together to help reduce the impact of identified barriers will prove essential; as will communication and collaboration between all players in the travel ecosystem, governments and other relevant bodies to enable to implementation of globally consistent and accepted travel health solutions.”

Andy Besant, managing director of Travel Experiences at Collinson, said: “It’s clear those travellers who were frequent flyers before COVID-19 are ready and waiting to get on a plane as long as the right measures, such as social distancing and contactless transactions, are in place. But the travel experience will change, with traveller demand for greater automation and socially-distanced spaces such as lounges, in order to balance the upheaval of the past year.”

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