Passenger spend rises across Asia Pacific as Covid restrictions lift

By Kristiane Sherry |

Passenger spend is already returning across Asia Pacific.

It isn’t likely to be until 2025 when Asia Pacific international departing traffic levels approach somewhere near parity with 2019, forecasts m1nd-set.

However, retailers won’t be complaining in the meantime; average spend per passenger climbed by US$54 over 2021-2022 and is tracking robustly against pre-Covid levels.

Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and more recently Mainland China have dispensed with Covid restrictions and unlocked their borders in a big boost for DF&TR.

However, this has come at a cost when studying the quickening recoveries in the North America and Asia Pacific particularly in the first half of 2022. 

The drag on a full recovery for Asia Pacific into 2025 will be shaped by countries removing remaining restrictions on travel.

According to air traffic data from m1nd-set (supplied by IATA’s Direct Data Solutions via m1nd-set’s Business 1ntelligence Service), Asia Pacific is tipped to recover 50% of 2019 international passenger departures through 2023.

Separately, and for context, global international passenger traffic clawed back around 60% of 2019 volumes last year. 

Passenger traffic is recovering across ASPAC. Source: m1nd-set.

Looking to 2024, m1nd-set eyes Asia Pacific international departures taking a 73% share of 2019 numbers. In 2025, Asia Pacific is forecast to reach 97% of 2019 traffic at 524 million passengers.

Average spend rises as footfall slips

A glance at duty free shopping behaviours in Asia Pacific reveals some interesting metrics. Footfall into shops remained steady (50%) in the preceding years leading up to the pandemic, according to m1nd-set’s B1S tracking survey. 

Footfall then plummeted to a little over one third of travellers (36%) in 2021, before rising to just more than two fifths (41%) last year. 

Footfall and conversion levels are fluctuating.

What is noticeable is that more than two thirds (68%) of duty free visitors were converted to purchase in 2021 at a time of depressed footfall at airports versus the pre-pandemic period. 

But that conversion rate dropped to just over half (54%) in 2022, despite footfall actually increasing year-on-year.

In spite of the 14ppt drop in conversion from 2021 to 2022, average passenger spend actually increased from $141 (2021) to $195 (2022).

The top five categories purchased in DF&TR in 2022 were chocolate and confectionery (30%), perfumes (25%), alcohol (17%), tobacco (16%) and skincare (14%).

For more Asia Pacific insights, including detailed airport rankings, see the May edition of TRBusiness, available now in print and online here.

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