Business trips back on the agenda

Man travelling with suitcase

The business travel market is showing signs of life, with a global study revealing that nearly half of those surveyed had already begun to travel or would do in the next one to three months.

New Zealand respondents are even more confident about travelling, according to the survey done for Flight Centre’s business travel arm, FCM Travel Solutions.

In this country, 61 per cent of survey participants have already travelled domestically or expect to travel within one to three months, and
38 per cent expect to start booking international trips within three to six months.

Nick Queale, General Manager of Flight Centre Corporate, said there were a trickle of business people still travelling overseas. He said that business was down to about 3 to 4 per cent of pre-Covid levels.

The top international destinations were Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, followed by Los Angeles, Frankfurt, London and Tokyo.

Domestic travel makes up about two-thirds of FCM’s work and in terms of booked travel it was about 25 per cent of pre-Covid levels.

Air New Zealand has increased its domestic operation to about 75 per cent of what it was at this time last year. While it still lags the leisure travel comeback, flying by business and government workers was increasing.

Queale said the first question clients asked about hotels was whether they were being used as quarantine or isolation facilities.

While the increase in new hotel rooms in Auckland and absence of international tourists had alleviated the previous shortage, the continued flow of Kiwis needing isolation could renew pressure on space.

The FCM survey canvassed 1600 business travel managers, bookers and travellers in New Zealand, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas, including about 180 from this country.

While a large portion of respondents indicated a need to revamp travel policy post Covid-19, 28 per cent of respondents were unsure
what needed to change. Of those that did indicate areas for travel policy change, “health and hygiene” and “duty of care” considerations were the two dominant categories.

Flight Centre has also switched to promoting special leisure deals to Kiwis now that overseas holiday travel remains on hold. This week it
was offering flights and hotel accommodation for a number of destinations starting at $325 per person.

During the school holidays skifields have been packed with domestic travellers who have replaced Australians on the slopes. Flight Centre reports domestic Queenstown flight tickets were up 184 per cent for June, year on year. Queenstown accommodation bookings were up 214 per cent for the same period.

Domestic Rotorua accommodation bookings are up 50 per cent and overall New Zealand domestic accommodation bookings are up 42 per cent for the month. Some South Island ski-fields have had to turn visitors away.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said although it was too early for exact figures, the anecdotal school holiday reports from members were encouraging. “Many have been pleasantly surprised to find demand for domestic travel exceeding their expectations over the past two weeks.”

Air NZ has responded to demand by putting on 283 extra flights over the school holiday period. Jetstar is also back operating at a good level. “The concern now is the sharp decrease in bookings that many are expecting after the holidays,” said Roberts. It’s not only hotspots such as Queenstown that have enjoyed the domestic visitor spinoff these holidays.

Enterprise Dunedin City marketing manager Malcolm Anderson said that based on initial feedback from local tourism operators, it appeared that Dunedin had so far fared reasonably well during the holidays, with many reporting visitor numbers relatively similar to the same period last year and some experiencing an increase.

Anderson said accommodation providers noted that even though room rates are often cheaper when buying direct,New Zealanders are still choosing to book through booking sites which take commissions.

Central Otago is also seeing a lift in domestic numbers. For the first eight days of the holidays, overnight and day visits are both up on the same period last year, says the region’s district council.

Article: New Zealand Herald - Grant Bradley

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