FCM Travel Solutions and Corprate Traveller, two divisions of the Flight Centre Travel Group, held an event yesterday to share their latest results and technology updates.
The annual FCM/Flight Centre Corporate media event is held weeks before the Business Travel Show and is a preview of some of the themes the companies aim to focus on at the Olympia event, which takes places from 20-21 February.
Markus Eklund, global managing director, FCM Travel Solutions, said that corporate travel was the fastest-growing sector for the overall group, and it now had a presence in 97 countries, following the addition of eight new markets in 2018. It also acquired Silicon Valley-based Casto Travel Inc at the end of last year.
"It was an absolute record year," Eklund said, "and there was a 20 per cent growth in turnover for our corporate brands, with AUD$1 billion (£550,034,901) worth of new customers signed in 2018. The US is a key growth market, seeing 20 per cent growth... but the figure we are most proud of is our client retention level, awhich is 97 per cent."
He said there were two key trends for FCM, which this year is poised to be take the number four slot in Buying Business Travel's Leading 50 TMCs following the acquistion of HRG by American Express Global Business Travel: "There's Brexit. We keep getting asked by customers, but frankly we have no idea. If we did, we'd be the prime minister. But there will be an impact on the travel industry.
"The other trend is a more self-inflicted pain – or NDC. But 2019 will be the year when it will be more than bed time talk. Things will start to happen, both positive and negative."
Jo Greenfield, UK general manager at FCM, revealed that within the UK specifically, retention stood at 98 per cent, including 17 customers that had retendered, and that 32 new national clients were signed up in 2018, representing £130 million worth of new business.
For the SME sector, Corporate Traveller's general manager Andy Hegley said there had been growth outside of London, including Scotland, the north-west and south-west, and that an average of 55 new customers per month were signed up during 2018. "We're in a good place," he said, "and full year turnover looks set to be 13 per cent up, with £55 million worth of new business signed up in the past 12 months."
Meanwhile, FCM's 24-hour travel assistant "SAM" is to be rolled out to Corporate Traveller's clients for the first time. The app will also have a new feature dedicated to help travel arrangers. The new version for travel managers, EAs/PAs and bookers grants them access to view their current travellers' itineraries, as well as receive notifcations that affect each traveller such as delays and cancellations.
Ping joined after ten years at British Airways, and is now part of a new Global Airline Distribution team, designed to spearhead industry collaboration between technology and GDS providers, TMCs and airlines in developing solutions to book and service NDC content.
"Last year was gamechanging," she said. "The GDSs got onboard with it, and for people like us it's a phenomenal thing. Now the hard work really begins."
She said the focus this year was on "servicing", as NDC needed to be able to factor in disruption to flights, such as from snow. She said that she had just come out of an all-day workshop with Amadeus and British Airways, but that FCM was "talking to all the airlines".
However, it appears more work needs to be done, as she cited that "80 per cent of travel managers don't know about NDC".
FCM will be exhibiting SAM's new features on stand B130 at the Business Travel Show in London's Olympia from 20-21 February