Independent TMC members are enjoying impressive business growth with many now “outperforming multinationals”, according to the Advantage Travel Partnership, which says more than 80 per cent of its member agencies have seen an increase in new customers.
Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of its TMC members have secured business from previously unmanaged companies and 80 per cent report an increase in travel from existing clients, according to the results of an April survey which were released at Advantage’s annual conference today, taking place in Benidorm, Spain.
“I think the independent sector is often outperforming multinationals,” said Guy Snelgar, Advantage Travel Partnership global business travel director. “Many are exceeding 2019 revenue and many are exceeding 2019 transactions. SME corporates aren’t perhaps as encumbered by strategy and policy as larger blue-chip corporates are.”
According to Advantage's member survey, 68 per cent of its TMCs are now reporting higher turnover than in 2019 while 61 per cent are seeing higher transaction levels.
Higher turnover can partly be attributed to the increased cost of travel, suggested Snelgar, with 97 per cent of members reporting an increase in the cost of flights and 94 per cent reporting higher accommodation costs. In fact, one in six respondents said they are seeing airfares as much as 50 per cent higher than in 2019.
Interestingly, while 84 per cent of Advantage TMCs report an uptick in long-haul business travel so far this year, only 42 per cent said domestic travel has increased in the opening months of the year.
“Despite the rising cost of living, our members are seeing an increase in expenditure on corporate travel, new business and long-haul travel, which are positive signs for our economy,” said Snelgar.
“The demand for business travel and to connect in-person is clearly there and we expect it to continue to exceed the pre-pandemic levels of 2019 throughout this year. Both new and existing clients are increasingly opting for the support of a TMC when booking trips, using their expert knowledge and experience to simplify the complexities of business travel.”
Snelgar said that some ten business travel agencies had joined the partnership over the last 12 months, with a further two new members to be announced imminently.
He also noted some of its business travel members have established leisure travel divisions since the pandemic.
“A lot of businesses saw their TMC perform really well for them during the pandemic and now that trust is there maybe they want them to take care of their personal travel too,” said Snelgar. “There is certainly more interest in diversifying across the board – agencies aren’t so pigeon-holed anymore.”
Overall, the partnership recorded its best year for retention and recruitment with its membership increasing 25 per cent in the 12 months to September 2022.
“Globally, we also continue to expand our footprint with representation in 83 countries from 96 global members enabling us to support our TMC members with access to likeminded TMCs, a key driver when pitching and servicing corporate travel,” said Kelly Cookes, Advantage’s chief commercial officer.
“Footprint expansion remains a key element of Advantage’s three-year strategic framework as further growth enables us to negotiate globally and partner with key organisations across key source markets in the US, Asia and Europe.”
The partnership says its UK buying power now totals £4.5 billion – and some $15 billion globally – while 35 of its members appear in BTN Europe’s ranking of the UK’s leading TMCs.