What’s the outlook for business travel?
The outlook for business travel is strong, but any further softening of the kiwi dollar could put the brakes on the growth in airline capacity, says FCM Travel Solutions general manager Andy Jack. While his firm has booked a record number of business clients in premium cabins during the past year and believes there is still strong demand from Kiwi companies, the weaker dollar since coalition announcements could dull what’s been called the golden age of travel. “It was always expected that the currency was going to soften. It is something we are going to have to watch,” says Jack. “The cost of fuel goes up and then it’s a matter of who’s going to stick around in the long haul.” New airlines could still enter the market but not at the same rate as the past two years.
FCM is part of Flight Centre, and across all its business travel brands, corporate travel has increased by 11 per cent this year compared to 2016. And 95 per cent of FCM’s clients believe their travel spend will be the same or increase over the next year. During the past year, the most significant growth was in Australia, the New Zealand domestic market and in Asia. Europe and the United States had not experienced the same levels of growth. The most significant growth was in Singapore (12 per cent up), NZ domestic (12 per cent), Australia (11 per cent), Japan (17 per cent ), Papua New Guinea (24 per cent, the United Arab Emirates (9 per cent) and India (10 per cent). More corporate travellers are opting for ultralong-haul non-stop flights. Emirates’ flights to Dubai and Qatar Airways services to Doha are popular.
But flights of 17 hours-plus are highlighting the need for Wifi connectivity, Jack says. Nobody wants to be in the air for a day or two and then arrive with everything else in the world turning. Dead time doesn’t work. “It’s huge – nobody wants to be in the air for a day or two and then arrive with everything else in the world turning. Dead time doesn’t work,” he says. Airlines including Cathay, Emirates and American had Wifi and Air New Zealand would introduce it. Companies are also less concerned about getting the cheapest fare on specific airlines. “I think price point is still a factor but you’re balancing that up with traveller welfare and productivity in the air,” says Jack.