CWT Expecting Narrowly Positive 2012 Global Transaction Growth - Business Travel News

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CWT Expecting Narrowly Positive 2012 Global Transaction Growth

March 01, 2012 - 02:15 PM ET

By David Jonas

Carlson Wagonlit Travel thus far in 2012 has seen narrowly positive travel activity among client programs and it expects about the same for the remainder of the year. President and CEO Doug Anderson said that while companies individually continue to perform well and maintain growth strategies, the shadow of eurozone economic anxiety and lessons from the last recession demand caution.

"A majority of our clients tell us they expect to spend as much on travel [this year] as they did in 2011, or perhaps spend a little more," Anderson told BTN. "But as we learned in 2008-2009, those decisions can change very quickly."

For the first six weeks of 2012, CWT saw "very low-single-digit growth" in global travel transactions, Anderson said, and the travel management company expects that to continue. "It's going to be hard to grow the business at the levels we grew in 2011," he said. "It's going to be a more challenging environment," though growth in the "mid- to high-teens" can be expected in Asia/Pacific's and Latin America's emerging markets.

CWT for 2011 reported "record" figures, including a 15 percent year-over-year jump in sales volume to $28 billion and a 7 percent increase in managed transactions to nearly 62 million.

But now, Anderson explained, "the implications of some sort of a collapse in the eurozone are so significant that there is just generally concern that something of a significant nature may happen. It's a pessimistic feeling, but when you look at individual businesses, things are not going all that badly. At a micro level, decisions are being made to keep driving business, keep driving growth and generate earnings, but when you get to the macro level and read the front page of the newspaper every day, there is plenty to worry about."

Anderson said he also doesn't expect much growth in premium bookings this year. After significant reductions in late 2008 and 2009, "most of the business-class travel, at least in percentage terms, had come back by the first half of last year," he said. "I am hoping and expecting that there won't be any significant movement down."

For 2012, CWT also reported growth for the CWT Solutions Group consultancy, driven by travel program consolidation trends and more intense scrutiny of hotel costs. Anderson said the TMC's clients late last year identified the hotel category as a top-three priority and noted that Solutions Group is investing in "both technology and people" to support buyers' hotel requests for proposals.

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