Travel management companies lose ground to specialist agencies

Travel management companies are losing ground to specialist agencies in the battle for business travel, according to hotel booking portal HRS.

Research produced at the Business Travel Show suggests the number of companies using a single TMC has fallen from 61% a year ago to 47% today, with the biggest fall among FTSE 500 companies.

It suggests one in four companies are using at least one specialist booking agent ­ double the rate of a year ago. HRS claims a lack of transparency at TMCs is leading clients to look elsewhere.

The survey, carried out for HRS by Pulse Research and produced as a UK Companies Business Travel Report, involved 50 businesses listed in the FTSE 500 and 250 small and medium-sized firms (SMEs).

It found 61% of companies believe TMCs steer them toward specific suppliers and more than half of these want a share of any preferential deals.

HRS commercial director Grant Appleton said: “FTSE 500 companies are demanding kickbacks.”  The survey also suggests transaction fees are down by up to one-third on a year ago. However, most of the fall has been on fees for booking rail and car hire.

HRS suggests the average fee for booking a flight is down from £27 to £24.

Appleton said: “TMCs need to address their business models. Corporate clients are seeing the benefits of using specialist agencies and booking direct.”

Yet the Guild of Travel Management Companies reported a record year in turnover for its members last year.

The HRS report did find corporate travel budgets have risen 10% over the last two years, and one in four companies predicted 5% growth this year.

The survey also suggests companies are trading down.

The survey found one in five FTSE 500 companies only allow economy flights for employees and two out of three book only economy rail fares.

It also suggests the number of day trips is increasing at the expense of single overnight stays, but the average length of trips is rising ­ from three to 4.4 days.

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