Corporate travel firm upbeat about NZ expansion

By Owen Hembry

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

The global financial crisis hit the corporate travel market hard but Australian firm Corporate Travel Management is seeing opportunities to grow.

The privately owned Brisbane company bought Auckland business Cavalier Travel Services in August.

John Lewis, general manager for New Zealand, said Cavalier was the company's first international acquisition and it was raising funds to expand.

"There's a lot of acquisition opportunities that the company's pursuing," Lewis said.

"We're exploring all opportunities for expansion, that's for sure, in New Zealand and beyond."

The global financial crisis hit at the end of 2008 with many companies implementing a stop-travel policy.

"In some cases there was a 40-50 per cent decline in travel expenditures almost overnight," Lewis said.

A diverse portfolio of clients, including mining, energy, finance and publishing had insulated the company reasonably well from the effects of the financial crisis.

"For us coming out of the global financial crisis has been a good thing, it's been a business opportunity because we've been as much as we can on the front foot in ramping up our resources for account management, for sales and business development," Lewis said.

The value of the corporate travel market here, including air travel, cars and accommodation, was estimated to be about $1.2 billion a year.

The conference and group part of the market accounted for about 15 per cent of business and having a bigger convention site would attract a good international range of opportunities.

"There's a lot of very large events held in Australia and I think having a facility over here would be certainly a step in the right direction," Lewis said.

It was critical for the company to have an Auckland office.

"Even though a company has an office in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and in Auckland, we're finding the Auckland office will often procure separate to the Australian offices," he said.

The global financial crisis triggered a lot of discounting in the travel industry, including almost hourly updates and specials from airlines.

Corporate Travel set up a specialist team to consolidate information, a process to audit bookings and draw from the discount offers, with savings growing month by month, Lewis said.

At the end of 2009 and start of 2010 things started picking up and Corporate Travel was seeing a gradual, sustained increase in volume.

The general mood of clients was more positive, budgets were rising and companies were looking to acquire and expand their businesses.

"Cautiously optimistic I think is probably the best way to put it at this point."

- NZ Herald

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