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One of largest engineering companies in the United States, privately held Bechtel Corp. last year sought to better leverage its travel spend and travel technology and "look at some sort of global synergy," according to Julius Yaovi Dakey, Bechtel corporate travel supervisor.
At the time, HRG covered "our travel supply" in most parts of the world, but BCD Travel serviced North America. With that contract expiring, Bechtel issued a request for information, followed by requests for proposals that resulted in the selection of HRG as its new travel management company and Concur Cliqbook as its new online booking tool to replace TRX's Resx.
Implementation began 15 December 2008, as the company established three onsites in the United States: one in Oak Ridge, Tenn., to handle its government travel, another at company headquarters in San Francisco for senior executives, and one in Frederick, Md., also to handle executives. The general reservation center is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where Dakey spent two weeks getting the operation up and running. After hours and emergency services are provided from an office in Halifax, Nova Scotia, he added. Bechtel's U.S. travel volume is about $3.2 million, but Dakey declined to reveal global volume. In addition to travel operations, Dakey also oversees the company's Diners Club card for travel and entertainment.
In its first 70 days of use, adoption of the Cliqbook tool rose to about 40 percent, Dakey said, above the 37 percent adoption rate after more than six years using the TRX software. "The tool itself was not a problem; the problem was those who developed the tool were not willing to go back in and tweak it or make modifications to match current travel environment needs," Dakey said.
While Bechtel currently allows travelers to use Cliqbook for domestic bookings, "we are really trying to move the online tool to be used for the bulk of our travel operations. If we could get 85 percent of domestic travelers to use the online booking tool, the manpower we have invested could be used to take care of the more complex bookings.
"We are planning to open Cliqbook to international bookings, but there are a lot of other factors to consider," Dakey added during an interview at an Association of Corporate Travel Executives event. "We have a service fee structure, based on what is booked online and offline. Our travel operating center is not funded by any overhead budget. We actually spend our incentives from airlines, commissions from hotels or others, and service fees we charge our travelers to fund our travel operating center." The structure is "pretty simply, 7 percent of the published base fare for traditional bookings and 4 percent of the published base fare for online bookings."
Among the considerations in the RFP process, according to Dakey, were "innovations and new technologies in travel to help cut our costs," and the "current economic environment, which wasn't that tight when we" began. "Cost was very important, but not only cost," he noted. Bechtel wanted to deliver similar travel service levels in key locations in the world and also allow travelers to change itineraries or book new travel with the same company, even when they were traveling internationally, he added. As it expands travel management internationally, Dakey said, "in most other countries we look at an extension of our contract" with HRG. However, he noted, the focus has not been on RFPs for other countries, but on the North American implementation because "we want to feel as if we have this nailed down. The goal is to centralize as much of the world as possible, so we can know what our spend is in all the aspects.
"We were hoping that if we went with one global agency, the service levels would be the same around the world," Dakey continued. "Little did we know that the service levels would fluctuate" by country. "Service levels we are getting from HRG North America are different from what we are getting from the U.K. In India, they found it more convenient to use Carlson for reasons very specific to their environment."
India previously had been using HRG, Dakey said, but went out to bid with a request for information and RFP. He became involved only in the bidding phase. "The bid process was very straightforward because after the RFI process there were only two companies willing to bid for the business, HRG and Carlson."
Bechtel also has travel operations in Montreal, Brisbane, Australia, and "opened a new pipeline in Angola. Santiago, Chile, will be our next step," he added.
Bechtel calls its approach to global travel management centralized travel management divided into regions, Dakey said. "All other parts of the world report to us in Glendale, Ariz.," where Dakey and his boss are based. "My goal this year is to segment all our travel to a four-quarter distribution where we cover four time zones in the world" to allow travelers to obtain travel management service no matter where they are in the world. While about 40 percent of Bechtel's 2008 revenues of $31.4 billion were generated in the United States, the company's 44,000 employees are working on projects in 50 countries, according to Bechtel reports.
About 85 percent of Bechtel's travel volume is booked through Sabre, but offices in India use Apollo and those in Australia use Amadeus. "We are talking to our partners in India and Australia to see if it would be too much of a problem to use one GDS. We are not considering that to be an issue at this point, but we are looking at cost and effect. Would it be something that in the long- or short-run would make our travel department more efficient?"
Another focus has been to remind travelers of polices in place. Like many companies, Bechtel has reduced its travel volume, but Dakey described it more as a seasonal drop than one prompted by the recession. "However, just like many other companies, we have implemented many measures in our travel department, a reinforcement of policies that we had in place," he added. For example, Dakey said, travelers are reminded to book seven days in advance. "We don't operate in a mandate environment; we let our travel program drive the behavior of our travelers. If we are able to set examples and say seven days in advance is what you need, people tend to follow that. If we mandate, then there is resistance and you have to prove why they need to do it."
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