ASTA Survey: Corporate Agencies Optimistic After Profitable 2013

An American Society of Travel Agents survey released this week found that corporate travel agencies on the whole last year saw profits rise, revenues grow and client travel increase from the prior year. Corporate agent respondents broadly expressed greater optimism for 2014.

Fielded online in January, the survey was based on 449 respondents who comprise a "representative sample of ASTA member travel agency owners and managers," according to the association.

Among all agency types, ASTA reported that "corporate agencies expressed the strongest performance in 2013," as 65 percent of respondents in that category reported year-over-year increases in revenue and 57 percent reported an increased number of clients.

"The 8 percent gap between increased revenue and increased clients suggests that individual corporate customers are traveling more," according to ASTA. A survey this week from the Global Business Travel Association points to a further upswing in corporate travel spending and transaction volumes.

In line with revenues, 2013 corporate agency sales broadly were higher, as 65 percent of respondents in the category reported a year-over-year increase in airline sales, 48 percent said they increased hotel sales and 43 percent indicated growth in car rental sales. Seventeen percent reported year-over-year declines in air sales, with 13 percent each saying as much for hotel and car sales.

For 2013, 72 percent of ASTA's corporate agency respondents reported a profit, with the average profit margin at 8 percent of total revenue. That compares with a 64 percent profitability rate for all agencies ASTA surveyed at an aggregate 9 percent profit margin.

Of the survey's corporate agency respondents, 12 percent claimed break-even performance in 2013 and 4 percent "operated at a loss." The remainder indicated they did not yet know agency profit levels.

"The future looks bright too," according to ASTA, as respondents in each agency category forecast profit margin growth for this year. While slightly lower than their leisure and retail counterparts, corporate agencies this year in aggregate projected a higher profit margin than in 2013, up to 10 percent.

ASTA indicated that its findings have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.