The UK’s business travel sector saw near double-digit growth in the first three months of this year.
The Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC) reported air bookings up 9% on a year ago in the first quarter, rail and hotel transactions also up 9% and car rental bookings up 10%.
Chief executive Anne Godfrey revealed the figures to the GTMC conference in Abu Dhabi at the weekend, ahead of a release of the full quarterly transaction survey which awaits the final returns from one member.
However, analysis of the transaction data over the past three years shows short-haul business travel bookings lagging way behind long haul in the return to pre-2008 levels.
PricewaterhouseCoopers travel and leisure partner David Trunkfield reported long-haul transactions by GTMC members fell 40% between their peak in December 2007 and the trough of 2009 following the financial crisis and amid recession.
Long-haul bookings had bounced back by 11 percentage points by September 2010, Trunkfield told the GTMC conference. However, short-haul transactions fell 89% between 2007 and the low of 2009 and recovered only six percentage points by last September.
Trunkfield told the conference: “We are half way through a strong cyclical upswing which is likely to continue for two to three years.” At the same time, he warned: “It seems travel experiences a shock every two to three years.”
He added: “UK business traffic is recovering, but there is some weakness in the UK economic recovery. We will probably see a squeeze on business travel in the public sector over the next 18 months, given the cuts in that sector. If global GDP growth slackens off it will impact on how much traffic comes through over the next two to three years.”
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