This already is a watershed year in consolidation and reorganization of large travel management companies, and many of those changes have affected their meetings management products. As the market shifts in anticipation of growing convergence between corporate transient and group travel management, agencies are staking out their territories and gearing up multinational expansion initiatives.

The recent changes among mega travel management companies are expected to give their customers more opportunity to manage transient travel and meetings centrally. Agency executives said they plan to step up cross-sales initiatives between transient and meetings divisions and offer a more comprehensive plan for their clients' entire travel expenditures. However, consultants said that beyond the initial leveraging power, there is little to gain in consolidating all travel and events with one management supplier.

Every major travel management company recently has undergone restructuring or consolidation. American Express Business Travel consolidated each of its consulting practices into one new brand; Carlson Wagonlit Travel recently acquired Navigant International; and early this year partners Hogg Robinson and BCD Travel split, taking with them several smaller agencies.

Though the agencies' size and the prospect of having one supplier for transient and meetings management initially may be attractive, said Tom Wilkinson, president of TRW Travel Consulting in Pennington, N.J., there likely will be separate meetings and transient services within those travel management companies.

"There is a significant functional overlap between travel and meetings. They both buy services from airline, hotel and car rental vendors, but the purposes and the people involved in meetings management tend to be very different," TRW Travel Consulting's Wilkinson said. "Every TMC would like to move into the meeting space, but they're now forced to partner with third parties. The problem then is that the logistics of managing and tracking meetings get to be more complex on the back end."

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