Despite soaring adoption rates of smartphones and tablets across Asia Pacific, mobile applications remain a largely untapped opportunity within the travel industry here, according to a regional study released by Abacus International today (October 2, 2013).

Titled "2013 Abacus Corporate Travel Practices Survey", the survey collated the views of influential corporate travel companies and corporate travel agencies in Asia Pacific to identify trends that are expected to impact their businesses over the next two to three years.

Following are the five trends identified by the survey:

Trend #1: Increasing use of smartphones and tablets

The study reveals a disconnect between the perceived importance and actual provision of smartphone and tablet applications. Eighty-three percent of respondents felt mobile technology would have a moderate to significant impact on their business, but only a third (33 percent) of those surveyed had implemented any mobile web or native apps.

Of those who have made apps available, only four in 10 enable flight and hotel bookings via mobile, and only one in 10 provide the ability to make changes to booked arrangements. Just one in seven had created a specific app for tablet users.

Trend #2: Corporate policy tightens across organisations

An overwhelming 97 percent of respondents have received instructions to further tighten corporate travel policies. There is no relaxation of the rules in sight, despite the more favourable economic outlook acknowledged by all. The levers are frequency and class of travel.

Trend #3: Increasing preference for LCCs

Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of respondents are seeing clients adopting budget airlines for more of their corporate travel, mostly as a result of policies governing the choice of lowest fare (77 percent), but also for the alternative flight times (40 percent) and data capture (40 percent). Despite welcoming the move, agencies also find difficulty in making LCC bookings where poor access to content limits their options for travellers.

Trend #4: Corporate booking tool adoption

While the survey showed widespread (73 percent) implementation of corporate booking tools (CBTs) such as Abacus TripPlan, adoption rates reflect a polarising of clients into two groups: those benefitting from the cost savings of self-booking and those preferring to delegate travel management to colleagues or outsource it entirely to the agency.

Yet, 64 percent of respondents agreed that a good portion of travellers preferred dealing with travel management companies and agencies, with 55 percent perceiving business travel itineraries to be too complex a task to undertake themselves.

Trend #5: Secondary expenses for competitive advantage

Secondary expenses such as meals, ground transportation, mobile data roaming are a rising concern for most companies. Tracking and managing secondary expenses is therefore a growing focus with corporate travel managers looking for the means to support their clients with value-add initiatives. According to the survey, 30 percent of agencies now offer electronic expense management systems to their corporate clients to capture payments.

Cost concerns

Robert Bailey, CEO of Abacus International commented that LCCs are also reaching out more to the corporate sector. "While the low-cost market in Asia has yet to fully embrace corporate travel distribution, some budget carriers are now clearing a path to the corporate accounts, recognising the scale of the opportunity with trade partners, particularly on routes where low-cost competition is beginning to crowd out," he said.

"Despite the challenges, travel agencies are better placed to capitalise on the trends as they affect their businesses," added Bailey. "The essential technology and content is already available and customised for clients in many different commercial settings."

The 2013 Abacus Corporate Travel Practices Survey was completed in April 2013.