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Carlson Wagonlit Travel reported a rebound in trip bookings
for its United Kingdom business Wednesday, with especially strong growth in
long-haul travel in the first half of 2010—and price rises to match. The travel
management company also said it saw a resurgence in business class reservations
in the second quarter, as well as a continuing shift from air to rail.
CWT originally predicted flat volumes for 2010, but air transactions for
January to June rose 8 percent, despite severe disruptions caused by snow, the
British Airways cabin crew strike and the volcanic ash cloud. Almost all of the
growth was on long-haul routes, up 22 percent, with transatlantic ticket sales
up 30 percent.
In the second quarter, long-haul business-class bookings shot up 33 percent
compared with the same period in 2009, while transatlantic services fared even
better with a 40 percent increase. Premium economy bookings also did well, up
28 percent for long haul in general and 41 percent for transatlantic in
The rise in premium cabin seat sales contributed to an increase in average
ticket prices in Q2. London-New York rose 6 percent, but the biggest price
hikes were in flights to the Far East, including Singapore, up 17 percent,
Shanghai, up 29 percent and Hong Kong, up 32 percent.
"Long-haul travelers are also paying more for their hotel stays,"
said CWT director of public sector and industry affairs Nigel Turner. "For
example, New York average nightly room rate is up 17 percent in Q2 over the
same period last year. Other cities with high demand have also seen
double-digit growth, including Singapore, up 26 percent, Mumbai, up 11 percent,
and Hong Kong, up 12 percent."
Closer to home, CWT has seen customers shift from air to rail on five key
routes from London where the two transport modes compete: Manchester, Glasgow,
Edinburgh, Brussels and Paris. In all five cases, air transactions are down
while rail is up. In contrast to air, CWT is witnessing downgrading on rail to
standard class, with first-class bookings down 6 percent so far this year.
"With public sector cuts, we expect this trend to continue," said
Looking at all categories of travel, Turner added, "we are seeing almost a
reversal year on year. Public sector expenditure is in decline, with corporate
spend starting to return to 2008 levels."