Corporate Travel Agencies Restructure to Gain Edge for Recovery

In these times of uncertainty, image is everything. Travel agencies are trying to reassure customers that they will be able to handle their bookings when economies recover.Managers of company travel will need to be assured by them that they are able to handle an increase in activity, especially as governments reduce their financial support packages for travel and as labor shortages threaten an industry recovery.According to one travel buyer who works in the retail sector, the time of truth is near. It is especially difficult to see how private companies are doing. He said that it was up to them to be transparent, but prefers to keep his name quiet.Numerous large agencies are now ramping up their messaging and, in some cases, restructuring and refinancing.Are Credit Concerns Real?CWT is reportedly in restructuring discussions and looking for credit firms such as Oaktree Capital Management and Caspian Capital to provide new financing.Bloomberg reported that CWT entered the talks after it failed to pay June 15 interest on its bonds. The missed coupons put the clock on a 30-day grace, and the company is trying to negotiate a restructuring agreement.Fitch Ratings, a credit rating agency, downgraded the company two days before the report was published. This was due to missed debt payments. It stated that the company is currently in talks with most of its bondholders and lenders to reach an agreement on a more comprehensive transaction.Skift was told by a spokesperson for CWT that the recovery in the global travel sector was ongoing and that it was ready to assist customers during the rebound and beyond. We are currently in active discussions to strengthen our financial position as well as accelerate our ability to invest. They said that these discussions were positive and they are seeing great results.This plan also includes an agreement with bondholders that allows us delay our June interest payments. This agreement allows us to have more flexibility and time to reach the best financial plan possible for CWT, our stakeholders, and any future ratings updates by credit rating agencies.Find a pulseTravel managers need to be financially healthy. Their company will not be able to recover quickly if the agency goes under because most of their employees will be out of work.According to the retail company's travel buyer, due diligence should be an ongoing process. Travel agencies should provide a forward-looking cash-burn plan that covers 12 months. He had been trying to implement it at his company, but it was unsuccessful.Another global travel manager working in the entertainment industry said that I needed to be reassured that service would be maintained. One topic that was a hot topic in the last year's global agency request for proposals was contingency plans in case of business failure or service poor performance.ATPI, a global agency group, is hearing the call and has taken the unusual step of previewing its financial results. The pandemic forced it to cut 20% of its global workforce.It reported an underlying profit for 2020 of $15.24 millions on June 14. It made a profit in the 12 months ending December 2019 of $30.48 millions. It also stated that it has traded profitably each month since June 2020.ATPI CEO Ian Sinderson said that it is becoming more relevant to the travel buyer community that the financial stability and viability of travel management groups is being questioned. We felt it important to show the market that this perception isn't universal and that ATPI, particularly, has been able to weather the pandemic quite well.Sinderson was the agency's former chief financial officer. This explains why he is keen to get the message across now, before publishing the complete set of results at August's end. He said that it was his first attempt and that he would like to see the recovery process continue. It is important to make public the current situation and how we are doing.Different sizes and shapesOne agency believes now is the right time to restructure and create a new structure to capitalize on the rebound. Corporate Travel Management stated that it plans to emerge from the pandemic as a more global-focused company after purchasing U.S. agency Travel & Transport last January. It now has three business units worldwide: Global Customer Solutions and Global Agency Partnership Programme.CTM Globals chief operating office Laura Ruffles stated that CTM believes this value proposition positions CTM to be a leader in multi-national and global travel management services going forward.To identify the challenges, opportunities, and needs of global travel programs in order to get back to business travel, we listened to our customers, partners, and technology teams. We are confident that our structure will fill a gap in the market.CTM was not the only company to snap up the competition. According to Mohamad Halaii, the global travel director for perfume company Firmenich, it is a common tactic during a recession. He explained to Skift that in a recession you can either save your money, lay off staff, or stop making capex investments and lock up everything. You can also invest by putting more money into research and development and buying another person.American Express Global Business Travel is currently on the sidelines while it waits for clearance to take over Egencia.Priorities for the FutureTravel managers are aware that there will be greater dependence on certain areas, and they keep an eye out for this. Agency response has been prompt in addressing safety and health concerns.CWT's Travel Essentials search platform was updated last week with 15 additional languages, easier access and vaccination status filters, and a sharing feature that allows employees to share documents with co-workers, family, and friends.Erica Antony (CWTs chief product officers) stated that CWT Travel Essentials already has supported a 28 per cent increase in daily searches since the beginning of the year. Our global travelers will be able to travel more confidently with a wider range of services and greater availability.Amex GBT introduced new features Tuesday. These include post-trip surveys that allow travelers to give feedback directly to managers.The company also launched a Live Travel Dashboard as part of Premier Insights, which uses anonymized data and shows all customers' destinations. Travel managers can now see which destinations are available for business travel and update their pre-trip approval and travel policies accordingly.Travel managers want to adapt their programs in the most effective way possible. Mark McSpadden is vice-president for product strategy.Larger companies will be able to rely on agencies to provide detailed carbon reporting. Another travel manager based in Germany stated that sustainability and reporting on offsetting are important. If they can adapt to new capabilities, I don't see any risk for travel agencies.