UK travel management companies saw a sharp decline in corporate bookings in December.

The Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC) expressed concern at a fall in billing settlement plan (BSP) figures, with sales of air tickets in December down 3.8% year on year across all BSP agents.

GTMC members fared better, with a 2.5% decline on December 2011. However, the year ended with falling air sales throughout the final quarter. The decline did not offset a recovery in air travel for the year as a whole, with sales and transaction values finishing 2011 5% up on 2010.

The GTMC’s previous quarterly transaction survey for July-September 2011 showed a 6% year-on-year rise in air travel and 4% increase in total transactions. Sales of air travel for the year were then running at 7% up on 2010 and total transactions 6% up.

GTMC chief executive Anne Godfrey said: “December was a bad month for air sales, and the figures look even worse when you remember they are being compared to December 2010 when snow and ice brought travel to a virtual halt.

“The whole quarter saw a slowdown, which may indicate a difficult 2012 ahead. The real test will be January, which will show if this was just a bad quarter or a more worrying trend.”

However, Godfrey said: “December’s average transaction value increased significantly among GTMC members, showing a 12% increase on the same period in 2010, which may indicate more expensive long-haul air travel is doing better than short haul and domestic.”