1 November 2022, London Marriott Hotel County Hall
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
For the latest edition of this report, visit Europe's Leading TMCs 2021
In a world in
which social distancing, working from home and worldwide bans on travel are the norm, talking about business travel in 2019 seems like discussing life on an alien planet.
Yet no matter how alien this feels now, we all have to believe that business travel will return. After all, it has done before.
This annual ranking of leading travel management companies has been running since 1997. Since then the industry has made it through 9/11 in 2001 and the global financial crisis in 2008. TMCs adapted and survived then and they will again this time round.
When the survey forms for this year’s ranking were distributed, the crisis was only just beginning to unfurl. A few TMCs wondered whether this annual report should appear at all. However the decision to proceed was made, knowing that business travel will
come back and that the ranking is hugely valued by the entire business travel community.
It is likely that when this ranking is revisited next year, careful consideration will have to be given as to how financial figures and other data from 2020 are reported and presented. Your input on how we move forward will be welcome.
In the meantime, here is what the landscape looked like in 2019.
Overall, the leading 50 TMCs reported £11.5 billion in gross
sales in 2019. This is an increase of 6.4% on the combined figure of £10.8 billion
Inextricable economicsThe TMC sector relies heavily on the health of the UK economy. In 2019, the UK economy grew by just 1.4%, marginally up from 1.3% in 2018. Growth has been sluggish since the Brexit referendum
and the failure of Theresa May’s government to break the deadlock saw UK plc put off making decisions, although the election of Boris Johnson as prime minister in December looked set to break that deadlock.
Despite that economic uncertainty on the homefront, it was a good year for aviation. The International Air Transport Association announced that demand (revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) for 2019 rose by 4.2% on a global basis, albeit down from 7.3%
the previous year. Load factor again reached a record high – 82.0%, pushing fares higher as a result.
Market consolidationOnce again, this year’s TMC ranking sees the disappearance of some well-known names thanks to ongoing consolidation in the sector.
Gray Dawes continued the streak of the past few years that had seen it add Giles Travel and TMG to its portfolio with the acquisitions of INC Travel and VIP Travel in February and Amber Road in September.
In May, Clarity followed its 2016 acquisition of Portman Travel with the purchase of Ian Allan Travel, established as a family business 55 years ago. And in July, Reed and Mackay acquired Business Travel Direct from the Ickenham Travel Group. This consolidation
also means we see some new entrants into the ranking for the first time.
TrendsettersThere are other key trends that emerge from this year’s leading 50. One is that a growing number of TMCs are embracing NDC and have mentioned it explicitly in their entries for the first time.
Others do not mention it directly but are increasingly using technology that gives access to NDC content, such as the Atriis booking tool used by many TMCs.
The other big trend was the environment. The headlines today may no longer be dominated by Greta Thunberg but the laser-focus she put on climate change was reflected in new thinking from TMCs.
Overall, the leading 50 TMCs reported £11.5 billion in gross sales in 2019. This is an increase of 6.4% on the combined figure of £10.8 billion in 2018 (Note that the 2018 figure has been revised in order to reflect the inclusion of Uniglobe in the separate
listing of partnerships this year).
Each year, TMCs are also asked for their views on the state of the market and the year ahead. At the time of the survey, when the spread of coronavirus was in its infancy, more than half of those surveyed (56%) felt that 2020 would be a year when the
travel volumes they handle stay level or decline.
The full picture will become clear next year. It will be interesting to see how the relationships between TMCs and their clients thrive or deteriorate in a time of little or no business travel and whether that will lead to changes once the crisis is over.
Rankings methodologyThe annual BTN Europe Leading 50 TMCs report is compiled
from information supplied from Britain’s travel management companies during a
two-month period in March and April each year. The information is gathered
through a comprehensive questionnaire that is reviewed each year for its
relevance. The survey includes questions on financial performance and
transactions and we are very grateful to TMCs for providing the information
that is vital for creating this ranking. Some TMCs are unwilling to supply
answers to every question for this supplement, including the key financial
statistics that are used to rank TMCs. A few years ago the decision was taken
to include all of the major TMCs in this ranking, regardless of whether they
supplied the necessary information. This means that for a small handful of
TMCs, estimates of certain key figures are necessary, notably the gross sales
figure, rather like the compilers of the Sunday Times Rich List do. These are
clearly marked. We make these estimates as rigorous as possible. This involves
looking at Companies House accounts, analysing air spend figures from IATA’s
Billing and Settlement Plan and taking note of public statements about changes
in client spend and turnover. We believe that the figures we use reflect the
state of the market. Conducted as coronavirus became a global pandemic, this
year’s survey does not reflect the devastation it inflicted on the business