Some British travel management companies
may introduce fees for taking client payments by invoice after seeing this year
a substantial switch from card settlements, senior officers of the Guild of
Travel Management Companies warned on Tuesday.
"We've seen a 20 percent shift from
card to invoicing at Portman Travel, and I would suggest our numbers are pretty
much the norm," said Portman chief executive Mike Hare, who is chairman of
the GTMC. Those customers moved to invoicing following the April introduction by
British Airways of a £4.50 surcharge on payments by card through travel agents.
Most Lufthansa Group airlines introduced a similar charge in the United Kingdom
earlier this month. However, Hare added that few of the clients that have made
the switch are multinational corporations.
British TMCs traditionally have not charged
for extending credit facilities to their corporate customers, but GTMC deputy
chairman Ajaya Sodha warned that now could change. "If this trend
continues, TMCs might look at increasing their fees or adding a supplement,"
he said. Some TMCs in Germany have introduced invoice-handling fees.
So far, BA and the Lufthansa Group are the
only carriers to have introduced card surcharges in the United Kingdom, but GTMC
indicated that another unidentified airline is strongly considering following
Hare and Sodha gave their views during a
GTMC media briefing in which they said there is no sign of a fall in business
travel demand, in spite of declining economic confidence worldwide. Each month
this year, Billing and Settlement Plan figures show a year-over-year increase
in the financial volume settled with airlines by U.K. travel agents of 6
percent to 9 percent. GTMC members' BSP figures have been even better,
consistently up by double-digit percentages, Hare said. He attributed the
improvement to more flights, a return to business class and, in particular, the
boom in travel to emerging markets. "Try getting a premium cabin seat to
BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India and China] countries at the moment," said Hare.
"You can't get them."