In an interview, Andrew Cosslett said there was some evidence companies were beginning to increase their travel budgets. "It's a start," he said. "Group bookings are starting to emerge; conferences are starting to get booked."

"It's still tough but I'm confident we can see the end," he said, "whereas six to eight months ago it was so tough, there was no end."

He said the "transient corporate customer" is still a scarce source of demand and would remain so until companies decide on their travel budgets for next year after slashing them for 2009.

Companies are generally expected to have "pretty good earnings" in the months ahead, and this bodes well for the travel industry, he said.

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