Expedia tops Travel Weekly's 2011 Power List as business returns to normal
André Désiront and Zachary-Cy Vanasse

Expedia narrowly held on to the top ranked spot as the largest global travel agency according to Travel Weekly magazine, beating out American Express, which had a monopoly over the top position from 1992 through to 2009. Carlson Wagonlit finished a close third.  This reflects the continuing strength of online travel agencies who mainly sell to leisure travellers (93 per cent for Expedia) and large agencies working in the business sector.

The good news is that business is returning to normal. Expedia and Priceline as well as American Express and Carlson Wagonlit all saw sales increases from 15 to 20 per cent. Priceline had a 45 per cent sales increase.

Between 2008 and 2010, sales for American Express had dropped by 25 per cent from $29.1 billion to $21.5 billion and Carlson Wagonlit’s sales declined by 23 per cent over that same period. Meanwhile, Expedia’s sales remained unaffected, making slow but significant progress.

Another online agency continued to grow rapidly as Priceline significantly increased its 2009 sales volume of $9.3 billion to $13.6 billion in 2010.

One big player was notable for its very absence from the list: Travelocity. For the past two years the privately held company has refused to divulge its sales information. Estimates put the company's sales at around $9.8 billion.

Productivity per employee

We can contrast and compare online agencies and traditional agencies one step further. Expedia had a sales volume of nearly $26 billion with 8,900 employees, meaning sales of $2.9 million per employee. Meanwhile AAA, a traditional travel agency network, has 4,155 employees and generated sales volumes of $3.44 billion, or $827, 900 per employee.

The top 10 grossing agencies of 2010:

1.    Expedia: $25.9 billion ($21.8 billion in 2009)
2.    American Express: $25.7 billion ($21.5 billion in 2009)
3.    Carlson Wagonlit: $24.3 billion ($21.4 billion 2009)
4.    Hogg Robinson: $16 billion ($16 billion in 2009)
5.    BCD Travel: $14.6 billion ($14.6 billion in 2009)
6.    Priceline: $13.6 billion ($9.3 billion in 2009)
7.    Orbitz: $11.4 billion ($10.1 billion in 2009)
8.    AAA Travel: $3.44 billion ($3.23 billion in 2009)
9.    Travel Leaders: $1.8 billion ($1.68 billion in 2009)
10.   Flight Centre USA: $1.68 billion ($1.88 billion in 2009)