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‘India is an extremely important market, and we will continue to invest our focus & resources here’

Collinson, a global provider of customer loyalty and benefits, and pioneer of the Priority Pass loyalty programme is upbeat about opportunities in India with rebound of travel. Todd Handcock, President, Asia Pacific, Collinson speaks to Disha Shah Ghosh about their new partnerships and investment in India.

Q. What kind of opportunity has the post-Covid world brought in for airport lounges?

Airport lounges play a key role in aiding the travel recovery, with a recent Collinson study of over 5,400 frequent travellers across seven Asia Pacific markets – 1,063 India based – revealing that 49% of Indian travellers ‘feel safer at the airport’ when they’re able to access a lounge.

This is key, when close to half (42%) of respondents indicated having anxiety about picking up infections while at the airport. The increased emphasis on safety and celebration of the return to travel has resulted in lounge access being viewed by survey respondents, on average, as the number one most desirable travel benefit at the airport.

87% of Indian travellers say they expect airport lounge access as a premium card benefit; 55% agreed it makes them feel ‘rewarded’; while a further 52% said lounge access made them ‘feel valued as a customer’.

This reveals an opportunity for brands to identify innovative ways to retain loyalty among current customers, whilst attracting new ones by leveraging lounge access and flight-delay benefits.

Q. Enumerate on some of the key travel trends in APAC in general, and India in particular.

We’re seeing demand for international travel picking up substantially in 2022, thanks to travel restrictions easing across most countries and regions around the world. India appears to be ahead of the curve, with travel reaching 72% of pre-COVID levels in May this year, and it being expected to reach 80-85% of pre-COVID levels by April 2023.

These recovery trends are also evident when our global recovery data is reviewed. As of 14 July, lounge visits in APAC were at 484% year-on-year versus last year. While this is still down 46% versus 2019, the rate of recovery suggests it won’t be long before we’re back to pre-COVID levels.

This incredible desire to travel again was also evident in our research results, with travellers who averaged 6 return trips pre-pandemic (2019) undertaking an average of three self-predicted return trips in 2022.

Q. How are you aligning your investment options in India with the current travel trends?
India remains an extremely important market for us, and we will continue to invest our focus and resources here. Even during the pandemic, we continued to add almost 70 lounges and experiences to our portfolio across Asia Pacific, 15 of which were in India, in preparation for the return of travel, with a view to supporting our Members and client customers.

Keeping in mind that 47% of Indian respondents have anxiety about picking up infections while at the airport, we’re continuing to find ways to better support travellers’ physical and mental wellbeing. Access to spas and sleep pods globally ensure Indian travellers can rest and relax when travelling internationally, while SmartDelay enables brands to turn flight delay stress into lounge rest through ad-hoc lounge access as a benefit in case of flight delays or cancellations.

Q. Tell us about your offerings Priority Pass and Priority Pass Access India in relation to supporting the domestic tourism market.
Priority Pass Access India is designed to provide our clients’ customers with a touch of luxury in a safe and comfortable environment. Payment cardholders can enjoy 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.
Priority Pass Access India is an extension of Priority Pass, the largest airport lounge and experiences programme globally. Our unrivalled inventory of 1,300 airport lounges and experiences covers 95% of all international flights from the top 100 airports.

As travellers return to both domestic and international skies in large numbers, we are keen to offer travellers a broad ecosystem of experiences that enhance their journeys at every touch point. To do this, we have partnered with Pine Labs and Poshvine in India.

Pine Labs’ point of sale technology enables the easy access to Priority Pass Access India lounges; while Poshvine, an Indian-based loyalty platform, enables discount offers across dining, retail, spa, airport transfers, meet and greet, and sleeping pods. We look forward to announcing more partnerships soon, to further enhance the travel experience.

Q. In terms of customer engagement, what do your partnerships bring to the table for corporate travellers vis-à-vis leisure tourists?
While nearly 70% of respondents revealed they had already booked at least one leisure trip in 2022, demand for corporate travel needs more time to pick up – as it sits at less than 50% right now.

Ultimately, nothing replaces face-to-face interaction however. So, while the pandemic caused some business travel budgets to be reduced, others have significantly increased in line with pent-up demand.

Most importantly, as corporate travel returns, employees need to know that they’re supported and have access to care should something go wrong while on the road. Having the right travel risk management programmes in place, and in turn educating employees about them, is key.

Having travel risk managers inside the business is important, as is enlisting the services of a third-party medical travel risk management company, such as Collinson.

Finally, take note of the new ISO31030 Standard, which reveals the actions organisations should be taking to meet corporate duty of care requirements.

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