Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC) members made a record number of bookings - nearly 14m - in 2007, buoyed by large rises in hotel and rail reservations
Air remains the largest sector, with 6.8m bookings (up 6%), but last year saw members make 3.2m hotel reservations (up 20%), book 2.8m rail journeys (up 23%) and order 400,000 rental cars (up 12%).
The sharpest rise though, was in booking ”other” services - including organising travel insurance, passports, visas, and airport car parking - which was up 27%.
”At the end of our third quarter, I was predicting that we would top 13m transactions,” said GTMC chief executive, Philip Carlisle. ”In fact, that proved to be a conservative estimate, as we ended the year just 40,000 bookings shy of the 14m mark.
”While the year-end figures are impressive, it is the fourth quarter totals that provide the real cause for celebration. While our leaders were warning of a spectacular slump, Britain”s business community took no notice, and got on with the job of boosting the UK economy.”
Growth in hotel bookings outstrips that of flight bookings, suggesting business travellers are making better use of their time away from the office.
”An air booking counts as just one transaction, regardless of how many sectors are included in the ticket,” said Carlisle. ”It looks as though travellers are combining several destinations in one trip.
”Car rental continues to be an increasingly popular option, mostly on overseas trips. However, the 23% growth in rail bookings suggests that train companies are getting their act together, and perhaps our business travellers are looking for a ”greener” option.
”The increase in ”other” transactions is harder to call. Clearly there is considerable organic growth but, increasingly, Guild members are also offering their clients a more comprehensive service, covering anything from pre-booked taxis to crisis management. That diversification has proved to be a resounding success, and we have no doubt that upward trend will continue.”
At the Business Travel Show at Earls Court earlier this month, a UK Companies Business Travel Report - commissioned by the Hotel Reservations Service - suggested TMCs were in for tough times ahead, with more FTSE 500 companies starting to use specialist agencies and management fees shrinking by a third.
But newly elected GTMC chairman Maurice Veronique, said TMCs would bring better efficiencies with the application of better technology, content, training and relationships with corporates.
”That”s where we have to invest ” to make sure we still offer a company something that they won”t get from the internet,” he said.
”Businesses prefer to work with a one-stop shop where they can get their flights, hotel, car, rail, insurance, get everything ” why are they going to go to five or six different suppliers to do that?"