Smart Travel names top performers

HONG KONG, 2 July 2019: Singapore Airlines beat Qatar Airways to be named the world’s top airline although THAI Airways International and destination Bangkok slipped a notch, says the latest Best in Travel Poll released by online Smart Travel Asia magazine.

Smart Travel reported its 2019 Top 25 Lists after a two-month (May and June) vote process involving readers worldwide.

This is the 15th year of the annual poll for worldwide frequent travellers without nomination fees or voter inducements.

The market research offers insights into travel trends and brand preferences amongst a wealthy high-travel audience that makes an average of 14 annual air trips within and to Asia.

Younger millennials continued to influence results with a strong preference for bold designs and boutique picks, often at comfortable price points, while travellers in their mid-30s to early 40s showed a steady move up to quality brands at higher price points and with better comfort and service quotient.

Business travellers followed price (rather than company picks) and location, and more experienced travellers in their 50s and above plumped for luxury stays and romantic locations.

The response to hi-tech was mixed with women generally preferring natural locations and surrounds (especially for their kids). Big travel drivers in 2019 included dining and nightlife (which surpassed shopping), family travel, and corporate meetings.

While Singapore Airlines beat rivals Qatar Airways and Emirates in 2019 as the Best Airline Worldwide with the Best Cabin Service, Thai Airways International dropped one rung to seventh place for business class and eighth overall, but held on to its sixth place for cabin service (the same rank as in 2018 but down from third in 2017).

Also Bangkok Airways dropped a place to eighth for cabin service.

Emirates soared to the top of the pile for its business class followed by Qatar Airways. THAI’s relative position is not entirely a reflection on the airline as Bangkok the destination lost appeal and Suvarnabhumi Airport remained absent from the airport list entirely. Both factors depressed the airline’s totals.

Lipstick-red AirAsia stayed on top of the first budget airline in Asia.  Jetstar Asia came in second showing it is the preferred airline for many business travellers on certain routes. Thailand’s Nok Air took 10th place again.

As in past years, no American airline made it to the Top 10 List in any category.

Said one seasoned traveller, “Flying transpacific and switching from the US to an Asian carrier is like walking out of a dreary office into a coddling resort. There is simply no comparison.”

Singapore’s Changi Airport (where the new ‘Jewel’ is now in operation with its canopy walk and myriad distractions) wowed the crowds and once again ranked the Best Airport worldwide with a huge margin over runner ups Seoul’s Incheon, Doha’s Hamad and Tokyo’s Haneda.

At Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport passenger complaints continued to pour in mainly about poor crowd management and highway traffic jams.

While volcano-weary Bali stormed back to take first place as the top holiday destination in Asia (unseating Shanghai, which dropped to fifth), hot-spring and food getaway Taipei stayed in second place followed by Hong Kong and Hokkaido at joint third. Bangkok weighed in fourth place showing no improvement over its 2018 scores.

Taxis woes continued to predominate, hobbling the city’s performance though nightlife and food helped the city gain traction and Phuket ranked sixth with Samui at seventh.

Singapore beat Hong Kong to dominate as the top city for meetings while Bangkok took fourth place. Voters cited the BTS SkyTrain as an important factor in hotel selection – not surprising, given the city’s horrendous gridlock.

A huge crop of Bangkok hotels shot up the charts in 2019. Some outstanding performers are the Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok named first for luxury hotels), The St Regis Bangkok top for business) followed by Park Hyatt Bangkok, Waldorf Astoria Bangkok, and InterContinental Bangkok high up for their conference hosting.