International demand for air travel has picked up substantially as restrictions across countries ease. Travellers who averaged 6 return trips pre-pandemic (2019), are beginning to return to the skies, with an average of 3 self-predicted return trips planned for 2022, found a new study commissioned by Collinson, a global leader in traveller experiences.
The research, which seeks to understand the latest trends and travel habits driving Asia Pacific customers, surveyed almost 5,400 frequent travellers across seven major markets - Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. India saw the largest number of respondents to the research out of all the markets included, with 1,063 participants (20%).
International travel returning at speed
With summer in the northern hemisphere ushering in what has generally been believed to be the “peak travel season”, one can expect to see a rise in travel around the region as people start planning their much-awaited vacations. Although the majority of these trips are expected to be domestic leisure trips, 55% of respondents have expressed an interest in travelling outside of their home market for at least one trip.
Looking at India specifically, the market appears to be ahead of the curve, with Indian airports witnessing a steep ramp-up in international passenger traffic. Travel reached 72% of pre-COVID levels in May this year, and is expected to reach 80-85% of pre-COVID levels by April 2023. Major destinations driving this demand are South East Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
This is significant, as it reflects how travellers are not holding back on the scale of their journey and remain eager to make up for the time and experiences lost over the last two years due to the pandemic.
Travel anxieties continue to linger
Despite undertaking travel in 2022, COVID-19-related health concerns remain; with close to half (42%) of respondents indicating having anxiety about picking up infections while at the airport.
The remainder fear that crowds at the airport may lead to another outbreak, whilst others want to avoid the logistical hassles that come with travelling in the new normal – including mask-wearing, travel restrictions, mandatory quarantines, and more. However, only a little over 10% of people still feel unsafe about travel, which is a promising trend when it comes to travel recovery.
Airport lounges aiding the journey
Airport lounges are seen as key in curbing travel anxiety – with the Collinson research revealing that 49% of Indian travellers ‘feel safer at the airport’ when they’re able to access a lounge. On average, travellers regard lounge access as the number one most desirable travel benefit at the airport, leading to 87% of Indian travellers expecting airport lounge access as a premium card benefit. 55% of Indian respondents said they felt ‘rewarded’, while a further 52% of Indian respondents said lounge access made them ‘feel valued as a customer’.
Todd Handcock, Global Chief Commercial Officer & President Asia Pacific at Collinson, said, “After two long years of waiting for the pandemic to recede and borders to open up, people across India are eagerly embracing the return of travel. This is an encouraging trend given that apprehensions around travel safety continue to exist. Recognising the value travellers place on lounge, we’re extremely pleased to support Indian travellers’ return to the skies through the launch of Priority PassTM Access India.
Designed to provide our clients’ customers with a touch of luxury in a safe and comfortable environment, Priority PassTM Access India enables access to over 50 premium lounges and airport experiences located across all major cities in India, simply by tapping or swiping a credit or debit card on entry. This is seamlessly supplemented with access to Priority Pass’s unrivalled 1,300 airport lounges and experiences globally – providing at least one experience covering 95% of all international flights from the top 100 airports.”
Rewards in today’s new era of travel
With COVID-19 continuing to result in additional checks and balances at airports, it is inevitable that travellers will demand fresh airport lounge experiences. The increased emphasis on safety and celebration of the return to travel is expected to make travellers attach an increased value to travel-related benefits. This calls for brands to identify innovative ways to retain loyalty among current customers, whilst attracting new ones by leveraging lounge access and flight-delay benefits; such as Collinson’s SmartDelay, which offers lounge services when customers’ flights are delayed or cancelled.
About the Research
Between 9 April to 6 June 2022, the data collection agency, Lucid, carried out fieldwork and independently sampled 5,387 respondents across 7 major markets in Asia Pacific: Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. The audience of this research were frequent travellers who own a credit or charge card with travel rewards or benefits. This research informs how they perceive various payment card travel benefits, particularly access to airport lounges and the Priority Pass lounge programme, and profiles their travel behaviour, including typical travel taken before the COVID-19 pandemic, travel taken in 2021, and expected travel in 2022.