SME business travel leads corporate recovery, says Amex GBT

The recovery in corporate travel demonstrates “very strong momentum” according to leading travel management company American Express Global Business Travel (GBT).

Paul Abbott, Amex GBT chief executive, reported the rebound in hotel bookings outpaced the recovery in flight transactions in the three months to June.

The company reported bookings in Europe and the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) now lead the recovery, with international bookings reaching almost the level of domestic volumes in the second quarter of the year for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Abbott said: “Some segments are outperforming. EMEA volumes have dramatically improved since January and are currently leading the recovery.

“SME [small and medium-size enterprise] customers lead the recovery and hotel transactions are recovering at a faster pace than air.”

He said: “SME transactions reached 77% [of the 2019 level] in the second quarter.” That was 15 percentage points above the recovery among larger corporations.

Abbott reported: “Hotel transactions reached 78% [of the 2019 level] for the second quarter, 14 percentage points above air transactions at 64%.”

He added: “[The] hotel transaction recovery improved 26 percentage points versus 21 percentage points for air, so we continue to see hotel outperforming air.”

But Abbott noted: “The dynamic in domestic and international travel has shifted in the last few months. The international recovery has now largely caught up with the domestic recovery.”

Abbot was speaking as Amex GBT reported a net loss of $2 million for the three months to June and a loss of $93 million for the first half of the year.

He reported “a very strong second quarter” and said: “We are assuming a modest continued recovery.”

Amex GBT chief financial officer Martine Gerow added: “The easing of travel restrictions and return to the office have been the primary drivers behind the return of demand.

“Average transaction value increased 20% [year on year], largely driven by the recovery in international bookings.

“Growth in management fees was more limited compared to 2021 because this revenue was relatively less impacted by the reduction in demand from Covid-19.”

Revenue exceeded the total transaction value in the three months to June by 7.5%, on a par with the same quarter in 2019.

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