Corporate travel returns as GDS bookings rise 24% in February

WORLDWIDE Bookings through the global distribution systems (GDS), which largely represent corporate travel, grew a substantial 23.5% in February year over year, according to data from Pegasus Solutions.

The demand increase drove GDS revenue up 36.8% over February 2010, as both length of stay and booking lead time for the segment also expanded. Forward-looking data from Pegasus suggests average monthly growth of more than 20% through July for the GDS, with accompanying rate, length of stay and booking lead time increases.

More broadly, global hotel rates climbed in February, with business travel rates up a remarkable 7% over 2010, and rates paid by leisure travelers for hotel rooms increased 3.6% over the same period.

Bookings through the mostly leisure alternative distribution systems (ADS), or online channels, declined from January’s levels due to a variety of factors, including regional unrest in the Middle East and North Africa. However, bookings growth still remained above February 2010 by 1.1% as ADR set a new growth record for North America at 2.9%, rising for the rest of the world to an almost 5% increase over last year.

“Despite the challenges unfolding at a regional level in the Middle East and North Africa, hoteliers were still able to raise rates enough in February to achieve average rate growth worldwide and capture more bookings than last year,” says Pegasus CEO Mike Kistner. “Consumers are not only traveling, but they are also willing to spend more. Additionally, the corporate market is booking more groups and meetings business from corporations of all sizes as February bookings, rate and revenue growth was coupled with increases in length of stay and booking lead time.”

The full impact of the ongoing Japan disaster has yet to be fully understood. However, forward-looking data generally suggests a continued leisure travel recovery. Bookings made thus far through online channels suggest growth rates strong enough to regain lost momentum during the upcoming spring and summer travel periods.