WTCE, the global event for inflight catering, onboard services and passenger comfort, is making Asia a key regional focus for its 2024 campaign. The organisers of WTCE (World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo) say the focus is intended to enhance the event’s appeal to potential visitors from the continent by encouraging more Asian airlines to attend. WTCE will take place at Hamburg Messe in Germany from 28-30 May 2024.
With the Asian aviation industry expected to make a resurgence in 2024, particularly in the business travel sector, the organisers have released a report – in partnership with Asia-based airline hospitality consultant, Jeremy Clark – looking at Asia as a regional and global travel ‘powerhouse’.
The report says that the travel sector in Asia, while initially slower to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic than most other world regions, is now picking up pace, and looks set to continue this growth into 2024 and beyond. According to SSCR (scheduled seat capacity recovery) rates from IATA, Lion Air and Air Asia have seen recovery at 99% and 70%, respectively, with Singapore Airlines at 81%, Malaysian Airlines at 85%, and Philippine Airlines at 87%. By 2025, current predictions by IATA suggest there will be 750 million passenger journeys to/from Southeast Asia in the year, which would be 50% of 2019 numbers, and that by 2040, this is expected to be 1.2 billion.
Whilst the vast majority of travel is for leisure purposes and inter-regional (meaning low-cost carriers are picking up a larger proportion of the recovery), the business travel market is also expected to make a huge resurgence with the return of face-to-face meetings. WTCE expects this will likely propel further growth in the increasingly popular business-class sector.
When it comes to onboard hospitality, Southeast Asian carriers have long held a reputation for good food and service, something Thai Airways in particular prides itself on. According to the airline’s CEO, Chai Eamsiri, “the airline is committed to regaining and re-building its heritage, and taking its rightful place as one of the region’s premier full-service carriers in all classes.”
The WTCE team have noticed a trend of airlines focusing on food, service and quality. Whereas many US and European carriers have abandoned any form of complimentary food service onboard, in Asia even airlines operating short regional flights serve a snack in economy at the very least, WTCE has found. And by and large, it is a healthy offering. Young Asian travellers are renowned for favouring traditional fresh foods with health benefits over unhealthy fast food or branded products.
Commenting on the market, consultant Jeremy Clark said: “The Asian travel industry is very different to Europe or the US; passengers have long held very different expectations of airlines, meaning Asia has always been the benchmark for quality and value in travel hospitality and onboard service. This means that operators are looking for products and solutions that will help them elevate their offering above their competitors and deliver their airline a crucial point of difference.”
At this year’s WTCE there will be a large number of suppliers exhibiting who are set-up to work with and supply products to the Asia market, making the event attractive for buyers from Asian airlines looking to improve their passenger experience. These buyers can represent big global names such as leading airline caterer LSG Group, the Dnata air services provider and onboard catering company, and in-flight passenger comfort suppliers such as Linstol and Formia.
There will also be a number of Asia-based exhibitors at WTCE, including SATS Catering Pte.Ltd, a full-service caterer specialising in authentic Asian cuisine; Noritake, a Japanese premium porcelain supplier; Merryfood, a condiment supplier from India; and Xiamen Avio Pack, a Chinese supplier of passenger comfort products and catering solutions.
A learning opportunity
In addition to product sourcing there will also be several learning and networking opportunities at WTCE, for Asian visitors to identify the trends sweeping the global industry. The educational programme features the popular Taste of Travel Theatre which, through a schedule of seminars, cooking demonstrations and tasting opportunities, will provide a platform for the industry to discuss the onboard trends of tomorrow and beyond.
The ‘What’s New Onboard’ feature will showcase a variety of newly launched products in the onboard market; while the ‘Wellbeing Walk-through’ will highlight a range of exhibitors showcasing products that support wellbeing – from healthy food and beverages, to soft goods and amenity products. There will also be the ‘Steps to Sustainability’ feature, which celebrates the accomplishments and innovations of companies that are leading the way in terms of environmentally conscious materials, production, manufacturing and operations.
From a networking perspective, Asian airline visitors will be able to access WTCE’s exclusive VIP Buyer Programme, which provides upgraded attendees with a range of benefits before and during the event. These include access to the VIP Buyer Lounge, as well as a digital gift bag with exclusive deals, give-aways and promo items from a range of exhibitors.
Polly Magraw, event director for WTCE, said of the event: “Naturally, Asia has always been an important focus for WTCE, but with the travel industry expected to continue to bounce back even further in 2024, we are keen to show air operators from the region how the event could really help them boost their business this year. Not only do we have a large selection of global suppliers exhibiting, but we also have a strong number of companies from across Asia in attendance, providing opportunities for buyers to see a range of organisations offering innovative and unique products that could help them differentiate themselves from their competitors. In addition, the educational opportunities at WTCE are second to none, providing Asian airlines with the chance to learn about trends and developments in the rest of the world that may impact and influence their own businesses.”
WTCE takes place at the Hamburg Messe, Hamburg, Germany from 28-30 May 2024. For more information or to register your interest for the event, visit the WTCE website.