Corporate travel

Discounts still available, especially in hospitality

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Print this page by Donna C. Gregory

What can business travelers expect in 2010? According to national travel groups, companies will be able to take advantage of travel discounts as the economic recovery slowly gains steam.

The best deals will be found in hospitality, especially in the luxury sector where five-star rooms are now going for four-star prices. “There are just no five-star travelers,” says Goran Gligorovic, executive vice president of Omega World Travel in Fairfax, the country’s third largest travel management company. 

Overall, average daily room rates dropped 9 percent last year. They are expected to drop another 3 percent in 2010 based on data from the U.S. Travel Association in Washington, D.C. “There’s a lot of new hotel supply, and they want to fill rooms, so rates will probably continue to fall,” says Suzanne Cook, the association’s senior vice president of research.

In fact, the group looks for business travel to tick up 2.5 percent this year, providing a partial recovery from 2009’s drop in business. At the end of September, business travel was down 7.5 percent in volume and 13.6 percent in spending as companies reigned in expenses during the recession. “2010 is a year of slow recovery. We probably look to 2011 to get back to a level we had seen before,” says Cook.

In contrast, air fares — which have been at historic lows — are anticipated to rise 5 to 10 percent this year. Much of that increase may come through fees. Those hotly-advertised $99 tickets could end up costing travelers much more, because of add-ons.  “The airlines are unbundling their prices. They’re adding all kinds of convenience fees,” says Omega’s Gligorovic. “The price is actually up.”

Plus, travelers will have fewer booking options. When demand waned last year, airlines cut flights to save money. “While they kept the profitable routes running, like London and Tokyo, where they cut is the secondary cities. Otherwise, they would have empty seats,” said Gligorovic.

The rental car market is expected to remain stable, as it has for several years. All in all, corporate travelers should be in a better position to put their employees on the road than in 2009.

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