The 2011 Power List recalls the days when the Big 3 dominated American car manufacturing. Three companies hover far above the next on the list. Expedia maintains its hold at No. 1 by a small margin over No. 2 American Express. And Carlson Wagonlit Travel maintains a strong third position. (Click on the image here or the link below to access the list via Travel Weekly’s digital edition.)
Then there's a gap of $8 billion or so to the next listee, HRG, which heads up a powerful "middle group" with sales in the low to midteen-billions.
But that doesn't mean many smaller companies did not do well in 2010.
Agency after agency registered increases over their 2009 results, perhaps not surprising because that was a dismal year. But in many cases the increases brought them back to where they were before the recession.
And despite new entrants JTB (No. 23), Ultramar Travel Management (No. 25), US Travel (No. 44) and Raptim International (No. 47), the Power List held steady at 52 members.
That is partially because of consolidation, as was the case with Protravel (No. 17) acquiring long-time listee Austin Travel, and partially because several previous listees did not achieve the $100 million in sales required to be ranked.
Boeing Travel is not listed because it became a corporate travel department as of 2010, serving only Boeing.
There was shuffling among several of the listees. Travel Leaders Group (No. 9) sold Connexions Leisure Travel Services to Affinion, which also acquired the Loyalty Travel Agency and now operates under the Loyalty name. Even with the sale, Travel Leaders managed to move up a notch.
Expedia's place at the top reflects the continuing strength of online travel agencies. Priceline made huge gains over last year: a 50% gain in sales.
Travelocity would not divulge its sales (it is privately held).
A company that is always a focus on Power List because of its controversial business model, YTB slipped again from No. 30 to No. 34 but said it is reinventing itself as a more traditional travel management company.
The number of billion-dollar companies grew in 2010, to 14, after having slipped the previous year. (Travelocity would be a billion-dollar company if it were included.)
Joining the billion-dollar club were Travelong (No. 11), which has been growing very rapidly in recent years, and Altour (No. 12), which went from $800 million to $1.2 billion. Another rapid riser was Protravel, which went from $537 to $748 million.
Smaller agencies grew quickly, as well: Travelstore, No. 31, increased sales from $200 million to $254.5 million.
And again, while most of the Power List companies are business oriented, many enjoy a majority of sales from leisure.
Among online leisure leaders were Expedia and Priceline. Other leisure leaders (though of course with their own online bookings) were AAA (No. 8), FlightCentre (No. 10), Travelong, Onetravel (No. 26), Avoya (No. 37) and Global Travel International (No. 52).
The year 2010 can be considered "a year of recovery" for the Power List and demonstrates the resilience of travel management companies. While many companies, and leisure travelers, are scrutinizing their travel spend more than ever, they are also realizing that using professional travel management is often the best way to maximize that spend.
That's reflected in the fact that when agencies are asked about the most important developments at their companies, the focus is often on cutting-edge technology that enables travelers to get the most out of their trips.
Some companies told us that 2011 bookings look strong so far and that they are looking forward to an even better year than 2010. But one thing they are not doing is sitting still as the world of travel management changes at an explosive pace. -- Harvey Chipkin
To view the entire list, click here.