The business travel sector was given a shot in the arm after Hogg Robinson, one of the top-four global corporate travel providers, reported a double-digit rise in profit as its customers start spending again.
The business travel specialist also experienced a rush of corporations looking to get their staff back to work during the volcanic ash cloud crisis, which forced the closure of European airspace.
Some 40,000 employees of its customers were stranded when the travel chaos started, with companies including Volkswagen, HSBC and Diageo. Hogg Robinson received 25,000 calls to its emergency phoneline in the first three days of the flight ban, compared to an average of 300 it would usually take over that time.
“We were able to help with alternative arrangements, that is what our customers hire us for,” said David Ratcliffe, chief executive. “We secured a lot of goodwill in our relationships.”
The company conceded that bookings remained lower than pre-recession levels. However a tough cost-cutting programme, which included a 20 percent head count and cost base reduction over the past years. By the end of the financial year, average monthly staff numbers were 917 below those for the previous year.
The group has also reduced the number of offices and encouraged remaining staff to work from home or from larger hubs, kept profits rising.
Pre-tax profit rose 38 percent to £21.2m in the year to the end of March, despite sales falling 7 percent to £326.8m as the company’s clients cut their travel spending by 12 percent.
HRG said it has retained more than 90 percent of clients, at durations slightly shorter than before. David Radcliffe said the group anticipated their travel activity to increase in the coming months, as global economies recover. New clients would also be coming on stream, he believed.
“These are very good results going into a difficult market. Who knows what the situation would be [with the share price] if it was a stable situation,” he added.