September 29 2022, Kimpton Fitzroy London
Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
Rumours of major changes in the world of business travel management have been rife for months and, quite accurately as it turns out, much of the speculation was about the future of Hogg Robinson and BCD Holdings.Talks about a merger or, at the very least, closer co-operation between the UK and Dutch companies which own the BTI brand have been going on for months.Talks that last that long are not likely to be going well. (Hilton concluded their re-union talks in four months although the ground had been previously well laid.)In the middle of their negotiations, Hogg bought an American agency, Sea Gate Travel which is a competitor of the BCD-owned WorldTravel BTI in the US. About the same time, Boron Securities, a sister company of BCD, revealed it had an 11.6% stake in Navigant, 50% owner of TQ3 Travel Solutions.When the talks were finally called off, it was BCD which was quicker off the mark with the announcement of its new acquisitions, TQ3 Travel Solutions Management Holding and the UK independent agency The Travel Company.When these three are joined, re-branded and re-launched, probably within the next three months, the resulting TMC is going to be one of the biggest in the world.WorldTravel BTI is already a major player in America. TQ3 Travel Solutions Management Holding owned operations in about 40 countries, including many in Europe, like Germany where it is was clear number one and The Travel Company, which has had a long relationship with World Travel BTI, had a turnover of Â£230m last year, making it the fourth largest TMC in the UK.Mike Buckman, ceo of WorldTravel BTI said that "with the integration of these leaders in travel management, our global capabilities span five continents and we are stronger than ever."Marc Hildebrand, ceo of TQ3 Travel Solutions Management Holding, was equally positive. "This move and the creation of this new companyâ€¦completes our mission to develop a global travel management company under one ownership," he said.For anyone watching the progress of TQ3 over the last two years, it has been a bumpy ride getting there.But where does this leave Hogg Robinson and the rest of the BTI empire? As David Radcliffe, ceo of both Hogg and BTI, was quick to point out, Hogg is a "global company in its own right" with "wholly owned or majority controlled (as is the case in China) entities in all key markets around the globe."Hogg's interests extend to more than 20 countries but there are areas where it is weak or under-represented. It has Sea Gate in the US but while this is strong in the New York area, it is less so outside that region. America, the largest business travel market in the world, is one area where it is likely to try and expand. Another is The Netherlands where its erstwhile partner had the BTI agency.One report suggests that Hogg will announce new acquisitions in the near future. That would fit well with the current frenetic pace of change.It is also possible that it will drop the BTI name - it can not use it in America anyway - and market itself as Hogg Robinson.But if the participants all seem happy, it may not be such good news for the corporate clients. At the end of the day, these might be left with a diminishing number of agencies to choose from. If Carlson Wagonlit Travel - still on the look out for new purchases - and Hogg do make further acquisitions, that number would be further reduced.However the opposite side of the coin is that there would be more agencies which were or had pretensions to be global TMCs and thus able to offer multi-nationals the full cross-border service they demand.