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Robinson Group client activity has been "showing signs of recovery"
despite eurozone economic woes, according to the U.K.-based travel management
company. HRG global air bookings in the first quarter increased 3.2 percent
year over year, aided by rebounding domestic U.K. transaction volumes and very strong
demand to such smaller emerging markets as Colombia and Ghana. But reductions
on routes across the North Atlantic, in Europe and even to China and Brazil
dragged down overall performance.
Russia, India and China "are now well-established business travel
destinations and, with the exception of India, the huge growth in air travel to
these destinations is slowing," according to HRG group commercial director
Stewart Harvey. For travel to Brazil and China, HRG reported client air
transaction reductions of 6.1 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively, following
a period of rapid growth.
client volume on North Atlantic routes dropped 3.9 percent from a year earlier,
following a full-year 2012 decline of 4.2 percent.
the United Kingdom and Europe, a "mixed picture" included a second
consecutive quarter of growth in U.K. domestic transactions and a
"significant rise in air travel" across Scandinavia, but slower
recovery throughout the rest of Europe. HRG noted that on routes to Germany,
while "the most popular" destination outside the United Kingdom among
its clients, first-quarter air transactions declined 1.5 percent. Double-digit
percentage reductions occurred across Southern Europe markets. Air transactions
for trips to France also were down as "many" companies changed
policies to require rail for U.K.-France journeys.
routes to Latin America, HRG first-quarter client air transaction volume jumped
in Chile (16.7 percent), Peru (18.2 percent) and Colombia (36.2 percent) as the
"emerging business travel destinations" continue presenting
investment opportunities. Transactions are recovering in the Middle East "after
hitting rock bottom during the social-political uprisings of the last 18 months,"
including 11.5 percent growth in Turkey and 9.1 percent in Saudi Arabia. HRG
also reported growth spurts in India (up 11 percent), South Africa (14.8
percent) and Ghana (50.4 percent).
global business-class air transactions fell 15 percent during the first quarter,
pulled down by a 22 percent decline on U.K. routes and a 45 percent plummet
across the rest of Europe. "The shift from business class to economy was
particularly acute in Europe suggesting changes made by business travelers on
short-haul routes during the peak of the downturn has extended well beyond
it," according to HRG. "Belt-tightening is also extending to cabin
classes on some long-haul destinations."
HRG transactions now have been up for two consecutive quarters, including
marginal 0.5 percent growth in last year's fourth quarter that followed six
months of about 5 percent decline. Taken together, HRG conveyed "cautious
optimism" but noted that "a number of clients" still are
experiencing "significant reductions in travel."
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