Amadeus Unveils First In-Depth Look at the Chinese Corporate Travel Market

Surprisingly, China’s travel industry may lag behind in application of IT tools and use of credit cards, a new report from Amadeus reveals. In addition, more than 80 percent of companies use paper forms within their travel management processes. Amadeus and travel research authority PhoCusWright unveiled the report that sheds new light on corporate travel in the world’s fastest growing economy. China is also a major outbound travel market.

Titled "Corporate Travel Management and Practices in China," the report, which is based on interviews with 112 corporate executives in China, paints a picture of the huge opportunities available for the travel and tourism industry in the market. It also highlights the significant challenges facing companies operating in the country, whether they be multinational corporations with a presence in China, private domestic companies or state owned enterprises.

“Our objective in undertaking this report was to foster a better understanding of the travel management industry in China— an area about which little is known despite being widely recognized as a potentially important economic driver," said David Brett, president of Amadeus Asia Pacific. "The research findings clearly reveal both the size of the opportunity and the scale of the challenge facing the travel management industry in China.”

Key findings of the Amadeus report include:

Use of IT remains limited: "A lack of IT penetration is a key challenge for those companies working in China. The report reveals that use of automated IT systems remains limited, with more than 80 percent of companies interviewed continuing to use paper forms to some extent within their travel management processes. Similarly corporate credit cards are not widely used and cash remains the dominant form of payment; more than 90 percent of respondents give employees cash advances to cover travel expenses."

Travel defined by government: Amadeus says a key issue facing any corporation operating in China today is the role of the State. “The study reveals that travel management is highly complex and defined by the government, translating to the need for corporations to have a detailed understanding of the domestic regulatory environment. Indeed, a strong working relationship with Travelsky, China’s sole government-approved computer reservation system (CRS) provider, is a prerequisite for all travel management companies in the country.”

Localized processes are a must: Localized processes, operations and technology capabilities are all also indispensable, Amadeus says. "Due to the insular nature of much of the national industry, it has been necessary for travel management companies to create bespoke systems in order to interface with domestic technology. Such systems are rarely compatible with existing global technologies and are subject to complex licensing processes. All systems must also be built to interface in double byte Chinese characters.”

In addition to these findings, the Amadeus report suggests that change is forthcoming. It points out that the domestic corporate travel market has expanded significantly over the last two decades and will continue to increase exponentially. “IT penetration is also expected to proliferate, driven by the growth of credit card adoption and the spread of broadband infrastructure into the regions," the report states. "The rapid enlargement of the technologically savvy under-35 generation is expected to further increase use of technology.”

Ram Badrinathan, general manager of PhoCusWright Asia Pacific commented, “This report makes clear that a detailed understanding of the market is an absolute prerequisite for any company that is either operating in China or is planning to do so in the future. It shows the unique conditions that they must navigate and confirms that those businesses which simply attempt to translate their global systems across are destined to be unsuccessful. Policies and programs which have been tailored to the local environment are essential.”

Brett added, “It is obvious that there is huge potential for the travel industry in China to improve efficiency and that as the market continues to expand more and more opportunities will become available. While we await the industry’s ongoing liberalization, Amadeus is committed to building on its longstanding presence, ensuring that its clients have the knowledge necessary to succeed and are in the best place to do so.”