Market research company Nielsen recently published insights about Asia’s retail landscape during the digital disruption. Two words were consistently used: ‘change’ and ‘uncertainty’.
How have the last five years affected Asian consumers, and in turn, retail performance?
1. Increasingly comfortable consumers
Almost three out of four Asia Pacific consumers believe they are financially comfortable enough to buy things because they want them. This correlates with the upgrade in everyday items, where Asian consumers are choosing more premium versions of daily necessities like milk and shampoo.
Asia Pacific benefits from vast opportunities within its own borders. This is a region with burgeoning population growth, a predominantly young workforce, improving living standards and a growing middle class with an increasing desire to spend.
Two out of three consumers across the region feel they are better off than they were five years ago, the global average is 55%.
2. More access to technology and products
61% of consumers in Asia Pacific cite ‘improved technology’ as the key service they didn’t have access to five years ago.
Access to better technology, increasing internet penetration and the rise of different online platforms mean that consumers in Asia Pacific constantly have new ways to shop, to interact with each other, and are always accessible.
37% of respondents from Asia Pacific also cite “better retail formats” as something new that did not exist five years prior.
Very simply, Southeast Asians are more financially stable than five years ago, have more access to a variety of products and technology that enables them to live comfortably. This has resulted in the much-discussed ‘ecommerce boom‘ and will continue to allow the online retail industry to flourish.
This is also the first time Nielsen has included a portion of survey results from consumers in Myanmar, an indication that the country’s developing economy will play a more significant role in Southeast Asia’s growth as a retail market to look out for. For more on Myanmar, read eIQ Insights on the country’s ecommerce potential here.
Survey results included in…
Has Covid-19 prompted the Belt and Road Initiative to go green?
– Covid-19 led to a slowdown in BRI projects
– Chinese overseas investment dropped off in 2020
– Government remains committed to the wide-ranging infrastructure programme
– Sustainability, health and digital to be the new cornerstones of the initiative
Following a year of coronavirus-related disruptions, China appears to be placing a greater focus on sustainable, digital and health-related projects in its flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
As OBG outlined in April last year, the onset of Covid-19 prompted questions about the future direction of the BRI.
Launched in 2013, the BRI is an ambitious international initiative that aims to revive ancient Silk Road trade routes through large-scale infrastructure development.
By the start of 2020 some 2951 BRI-linked projects – valued at a total of $3.9trn – were planned or under way across the world.
However, as borders closed and lockdowns were imposed, progress stalled on a number of major BRI infrastructure developments.
In June China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that 30-40% of BRI projects had been affected by the virus, while a further 20% had been “seriously affected”. Restrictions on the flow of Chinese workers and construction supplies were cited as factors behind project suspensions or slowdowns in Pakistan, Cambodia and Indonesia, among other countries.
Will Covid-19 unleash a new generation of digital nomads?
– Covid-19 has facilitated the widespread adoption of remote working
– Despite travel restrictions, countries are seeking to attract digital nomads
– Dubai and Mexico have emerged as key destinations for foreign remote workers
– As travel resumes, many anticipate a new wave of roaming digital nomads
With Covid-19 facilitating the widespread adoption of remote working practices, some emerging markets are seeking to attract digital nomads through a series of incentives and special visas.
Despite border closures and travel restrictions resulting from the virus, various countries are stepping up efforts to incentivise the movement of so-called digital nomads – people who work remotely and relocate relatively freely.
For example, in October the Dubai government launched its virtual working programme, an initiative that gives foreign professionals the opportunity to move to the emirate and continue to work remotely in their current jobs.
The one-year programme, launched after Dubai reopened its borders to international tourists in July last year, is designed is attract professionals, entrepreneurs and those working in start-ups.
Given its strong ICT infrastructure and healthy start-up scene, Dubai has been seen as an increasingly attractive option for digital nomads in recent years, with officials marketing the emirate as a place where people can live and work by the beach.
As a further incentive, in January officials began offering free vaccines to those on the programme.
Covid-19 and medical tourism: is a recovery on the cards?
– Before the pandemic, medical tourism was a major growth area
– Dubai was a world leader among emerging market destinations
– Covid-19 travel bans and lockdowns seriously dented growth
– Increased emphasis on safety has enabled a gradual re-opening
Prior to the outbreak of coronavirus, medical tourism was a significant growth industry in many emerging economies. While the pandemic represented a major setback for the segment, there are signs that it may be recovering in several markets.
The last decade saw a boom in medical tourism. By 2018 the global market was generating $58.6bn annually and in 2019 it was forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 11.7% – reaching more than $142.2bn by 2026.
The segment’s growth was largely spurred by increased awareness – particularly among citizens of higher-income countries – of the quality and relatively affordable health care options on offer in many emerging economies. The appeal was further enhanced by the possibility of combining medical treatment with a holiday in an attractive location.
Asia has been a popular region for medical tourism for some time. In Thailand, for example, guided by the Ministry of Public Health’s 2016-25 strategic plan entitled ‘Thailand: A Hub of Wellness and Medical Services’, stakeholders have been working to cement the country’s position as a regional leader in medical tourism.
Elsewhere in Asia, in 2017 the Indian government began offering a medical visa aimed at bringing in more foreign patients.
Governments in other regions similarly moved to capitalise on this growing segment. In 2015, for example, Turkish Airlines announced a 50% discount on flights for people coming to Turkey for medical treatment.
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