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THE BUSINESS TRAVEL MAGAZINE I 39


The Review


THE LOWDOWN ➔ A mixed outlook for the year ahead


TRAVEL management companies predict a mixed outlook for the year ahead as the economic picture remains uncertain. Corporate Traveller is on track


for 30 per cent growth in 2012 but says that one of the biggest challenges will still be convincing customers that TMCs can add significant value to a client's business travel programme. ”There is so much choice out


there in the marketplace for clients to book online, direct with a supplier, or with a rival TMC, that customers need to see a tangible value in using us for their travel requirements,” says Graeme Milne, general manager of Corporate Traveller UK. Milne believes that business


travel bookings will remain steady in 2012 but clients will be seeking longer payments terms in a bid to ease cash flow. “Clients are increasingly asking if they can delay payments and it’s not an easy decision for any TMC to make as we have to weigh up the risks involved,” says Milne. “We have also seen an increase


in hotel billbacks as clients look for ways to stretch their finances by paying after departure.” Corporate Traveller expects the


trend for downgrading from business class to premium economy air travel to continue, as well as a preference for routes where airport taxes are lower. The company anticipates rail bookings consistent with 2011 despite rising fares, but expects a


similar trend for downgrading from first to standard class travel. HRG, meanwhile, reckons companies won't necessarily spend more or less than before, but will need to spend differently, and that there will be an increased focus on mobile travel technology. “Clients will be looking for greater control over travel options in traditional markets through smarter travel and alternatives for internal meetings, such as video- conferencing,“ says HRG's group commercial director Stewart Harvey. “Money saved can then be reallocated to allow greater focus on growing and emerging markets where the opportunity for new business is strongest, such as China, India and Brazil.“


He continues, “When economic


conditions are uncertain, the last thing businesses want are surprises, particularly when those surprises cost money. In addition to amplifying the debate around ancillary fees, we’ll also see more corporations using mobile technologies to reinforce travel policy among travellers, “Mobile control is a high priority


for our clients, and as such HRG has developed authorisation and reporting tools for smartphones as one way of helping them to be more effective,“ adds Harvey. Cilla Goldberger, MD of ABT UK,


a fast-growing TMC, says safety and security concerns regarding employees will be the top priority for businesses this year.


“Following a turbulent year dominated by uprisings in the Middle East, riots across the UK and unrest throughout Europe due to the eurozone crisis, safety concerns will be the number one priority for business travel in 2012. “Rigorous crisis management procedures, including detailed repatriation plans, will be requested and analysed by clients,“ says Goldberger, who also believes that green issues will take a back seat in the year ahead. “The relentless squeeze on budgets will ensure that cost will override green travel connsiderations. While the bottom line will rule in 2012, TMCs have an opportunity to add real value through tailor- made customer services.“


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