Similarly to last year's poll, readers again spent significant time away from home. Exactly 175 readers, or 24.3% of total respondents, spent more than 50 nights per year in hotels. Consistent with 2004's percentages, 43.6% of all respondents spent between 21 and 50 nights in hotel, while just under 24% stayed between 11 and 20 nights.
For both hotels and airlines, competition for a larger slice of the Asian business travel pie will continue into 2006. According to replies in this year's survey, 88.6% of polled readers expect to increase their travel loads in 2006.
However, this expected boon for both the airline and hotel sector may face a force majeure event. In 2004, we asked readers if the SARS epidemic would prove a major disruption to business travel. This year we asked readers to plot the effects of avian flu on business travel over the next 12 months - and the outcome was telling.
In a result largely derivative of global opinion, 50.1% of voters believed that the unfolding bird flu situation would pose a problem and ultimately hit the business travel industry over the next few months. But in a result that reflects the fact that nobody really knows the answer, the yes and no check boxes for this question was separated by a solitary vote.
Like 2004, we again asked respondents for their opinions on the regional dilemma of air pollution. As an increasing number of readers travel extensively around our smog-laden metropolises, we believe that final results present a pretty strong idea of Asia's best and worst pollution offenders.
Unsurprising to those readers that reside in the once fragrant harbour, Hong Kong was again judged Asia's most polluted city. Mirroring the 2004 count, Hong Kong pipped Beijing by handful of votes, with Bangkok, Shanghai, Jakarta, Manila and Bombay following in the same positions as last year.
On the opposite end of the pollution stakes, readers deemed Singapore, Seoul and Taipei as the cleanest major centres. In contrast to the humiliating response to Hong Kong's worsening air troubles, Singapore did not register a single a negative vote on the issue of pollution.
Voters were again quick to praise and ever quicker to condemn airlines. When lavishing admiration on international carriers, two airlines stood out as the region's standout carriers. Singapore Airlines was again considered by business travellers as the best in class, taking the top spot for best all round quality and service, most outstanding food and beverages and friendliest cabin staff.
Although upgrades remained as the most frequent swinging vote, several readers were more specific in their praise for Singapore Airlines.
"Every time that I travel on Singapore Airlines I'm constantly met with extremely tasty food, friendly service and good entertainment during flights," said one respondent. "Singapore Airlines is unmatched."
"When I took the wrong bag from the carousel and realised my mistake on the (Hong Kong) Airport Express, the mistake was quickly rectified and my bag was at the hotel before I arrived to exchange the wrong bag with the actual owner," adds another satisfied traveller.
What was more interesting about this year's results is that we asked readers to specify their â€˜preferred airline' ie the one on which they travelled most. The bulk of readers specified that Cathay Pacific was their â€˜preferred airline'. This piece of data supported a theory we had long had: that while the voters in our poll are more likely to fly Cathay (due to their place of residence and mileage programmes), they still hold the belief that Singapore Airlines is actually superior.
In terms of airports and airport lounges, Hong Kong prevailed. Cathay's The Wing was again deemed the finest in Asia, as was its home base, Hong Kong International Airport.
It wasn't all high acclaim for the poll's most regarded airlines, with several voters quick to point out that both Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific has their share of problems.
One curious piece of feedback we had on Cathay Pacific was from a passenger who wrote: "Rolling out to the runway in Hong Kong, I noticed an odd piece of metal protruding from the wing. While I was attempting to point out the fact in English to the cabin crew, the man in the seat behind me who spoke Chinese also noticed it and pointed it out to the Chinese crew in his native tongue. We returned to the parking bay for an hour whilst the wing was fixed. After we landed in Vietnam, the airline gave a bottle of Champagne to the guy behind me and I got nothing!"
Outside of Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific, readers were indeed harsher and more graphic in their appraisals for other airlines operating in the region.
United Airlines proved a popular target for ruffled travellers: "On a business class flight on United a surly, middle-aged attendant butchered the pronunciation of my name and then laughed at the sound of it," noted one.
Hotels, resorts and golf
As a general trend, business travellers around the region tended to stick to hotels they knew, with the majority of 2004 winners again taking home the spoils in 2005.
In Southeast Asia: The Oriental in Bangkok, the Grand Hyatt in Jakarta, the Ritz-Carlton Millenia in Singapore and the Mandarin Oriental in Kuala Lumpur were again considered the finest hotels in their respective markets. In India, The Oberoi Group took top honours in New Delhi and Bombay, with respondents judging the latter operation superior to the newly opened Grand Hyatt. Readers again voted the Shangri-la Makati as Manila's best-rated hotel.
Throughout the developing North Asia hotel market, the Grand Hyatt repeated its reputation for unparalleled excellence with its Beijing, Seoul, Shanghai and Taipei operations voted as the top business hotels in their respective markets. The group's Park Hyatt was again judged Sydney's best hotel. It wasn't all top laurels for the US-based luxury hotel and resort group, with its respondents switching loyalties from its Tokyo Park Hyatt to Four Seasons.
The most resounding result came in Hong Kong, with the previously untouchable surroundings of the iconic Peninsula Hotel dethroned as the territory's premier hotel by the recently opened Four Seasons. Predicted by several voters last year, the vote of confidence is perhaps not surprising when the central location and proximity to the Airport Express of the Four Seasons is considered. However, considering the hotel opened for business less than two months ago, its six star branding evidently played some role in the Four Seasons victory.
On a regional level, FinanceAsia readers again considered Singapore's Ritz-Carlton Millenia as Asia's finest hotel, with 152 votes. Shangri-La was named the best hotel group operating in the region.
For the unwinding business traveller, Phuket's Banyan Tree was the clear choice for the region's best spa. The Blue Canyon Country Club was voted the best golf course in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile Shenzhen's mammoth Mission Hills Golf Club was easily voted the top course in Greater China.
|Do you anticipate doing more or less business travel in 2006?|
|What is your favourite spa resort in Asia?|
|Banyan Tree Phuket||88|
|What is Asia's best airport?|
|Hong Kong International Airport||357|
|Singapore Changi International Airport||271|
|Kuala Lumpur International Airport||16|
|Which city in Asia has the worst taxi drivers?|
|Which city in Asia has the worst air pollution?|
|What is your favourite golf course in Greater China?|
|Mission Hills, Shenzhen||77|
|Spring City, Kunming||12|
|What is your favourite golf course in Southeast Asia?|
|Blue Canyon Country Club, Phuket||41|
|Ria Bintan Resort, Indonesia||19|
|Will bird flu cause a crisis for business travel in the coming 12 months?|
|Best Hotel in Bangkok|
|Grand Hyatt Erawan||68|
|Best Hotel in Beijing|
|The St Regis||125|
|The Peninsula Palace||76|
|Great Wall Sheraton||19|
|Best Hotel in Hong Kong |
|Landmark Mandarin Oriental||73|
|Best Hotel in Jakarta|
|Best Hotel in Kuala Lumpur|
|Best Hotel in Manila |
|Best Hotel in Bombay|
|Sheraton Grand Maratha||17|
|Best Hotel in Delhi|
|Best Hotel in Seoul |
|Best Hotel in Shanghai|
|Best Hotel in Singapore|
|Best Hotel in Sydney |
|Sheraton on the Park||98|
|Best Hotel in Sydney |
|Sheraton on the Park||98|
|Best Hotel in Taipei|
|Far Eastern Plaza||115|
|Grand Formosa Regent||89|
|Best Hotel in Tokyo |
|What is your favourite business hotel in Asia?|
|Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong||84|
|The Peninsula, Hong Kong||51|
|Grand Hyatt, Shanghai||45|
|Best Hotel Chain in Asia|
|Which airline offers the best all round quality and service for business travel in Asia?|
|Which airline class do you normally fly?|
|What is your preferred airline? (ie which airline do you normally travel on)|
|Do you have the impression that your preferred airline is upgrading you more, less or about the same? |
|About the same||451|
|Is the food generally improving on your preferred airline?|
|Which airline has the most outstanding food and beverages?|
|Which airline has the friendliest cabin attendents?|
|Which airline has the best flat beds in business class?|
|What is the best airline lounge in Asia?|
|The Wing, Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific)||392|
|Singapore Airlines Kris Lounge||258|