UK TMCs: how they've survived the pandemic and what keeps them awake at night


This year for the first time we asked all our UK TMCs about how business travel in various sectors had held up during the year. We asked whether travel in that sector had been suspended, was low, recovering, normal or higher than usual and then created a weighted index (scoring 0 to 4 respectively). The results are shown below.

The chart tells the story of the pandemic. Healthcare and medical, logistics and ‘essential’ sectors such as energy and oil and gas continued to travel, with some TMCs saying they were busier than usual. At the other end of the scale, sectors like retail, recruitment and advertising barely travelled at all.


As always, we have asked the TMCs in our survey to think about what the current year holds for them. There has been plenty of discussion both in the industry and beyond about when – or whether – business travel will return to 2019 levels. We asked the TMCs for their thoughts on 2021 compared to the 2019 baseline – most believe that the recovery is not happening any time soon.


Most TMCs see the end of the pandemic – which is likely to be driven by the successful roll-out of the vaccination programme – as the way that growth will return in 2021. However, some see growth coming from more traditional areas of business.


As always, winning new business is a clear priority for the TMCs in our survey and many feel that improving their product and service offering is a critical way to do that. The pandemic has made many aware of the fragility of business with many saying that survival will be a key priority this year, with a similar proportion considering mergers and acquisitions as a way to make it through the year.


Our survey found that virtually every TMC recognises Covid as a major challenge in 2021 but reduced travel in general is also worrying them, with 80 per cent of those surveyed saying it is a challenger. The wider use of videoconferencing platforms, such as Zoom and Teams, is also concerning TMCs, as is a reduction in travel due to renewed focus on sustainability.


The pandemic has made many TMCs consider whether the predominant transaction fee model is sustainable. The BTA, for example, launched a consultation on alternative remuneration models such as subscription fees. The average TMC in our survey says 90.2 per cent of their fees are currently in the form of transaction fees. We asked them their views on their clients being willing to change to other remuneration models. On a scale of one (not very likely) to ten (very likely), the average TMC said the likelihood was just over four. It seems change may be some way off .

Discover the background to Europe’s multinational TMCs whose presence span the continent, read analysis of the UK, French and German TMC markets, and explore the mergers and acquisitions reshaping the industry