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Carey International today officially launched an "affordable and environmentally responsible transportation" subsidiary, Embarque. Priced at least 20 percent less than Carey's premium chauffeured limousine service, the smaller fleet of fuel-efficient and hybrid, low carbon-emissions vehicles is available in 12 markets.
Embarque offers "less frills, in a smaller, environmentally responsible vehicle at a more affordable price," Carey International president and CEO Gary Kessler told Management.travel.
Instead of Lincoln Town Cars--used for most of the 1 million trips Carey's premium service made last year--Embarque clients travel in charcoal gray or black (when required by local laws), Ford Fusion or Toyota Camry hybrid and gas vehicles. The fleet also includes the Hyundai Sonata and, in London, the Ford Galaxy MPV. All vehicles meet minimum fuel standards of 20 miles per gallon in the city and 30 on the highway.
The fleet was selected from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's SmartWay or SmartWay Elite certified list. The SmartWay designation is awarded to vehicles that have "combined air pollution and greenhouse gas scores that place them in the top 20 percent of environmental performers," according to EPA. The "elite" designation is for vehicles that earn nine of 10 points for both fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions per EPA standards.
Embarque also offsets emissions by buying carbon credits from EarthEra, a program created by North America's largest producer of wind and solar power. The offset investments are to be used to build new renewable energy facilities in North America. Carbon emission reporting is expected to be available for some clients this month, according to a Carey spokesman.
"Our clients are committed not only to safety and security, but a good many are also committed to finding the most environmentally friendly ways to travel," Kessler said. "That was a big reason for the launch."
Economy Trims Business
Economic realities provided another major reason. "Carey didn't see a lot of customers leave--indeed, most of our clients stayed through 2008 and 2009," Kessler said. "But across the board, all of our clients traveled less. As we listened to our clients, we saw a need for a more value-oriented solution."
Embarque offers zone pricing, airport and city center transfer rates and hourly rates all inclusive of airport fees, fuel surcharges and a 15 percent gratuity. Embarque will pass on to customers taxes, tolls and parking costs, but has tried to simplify pricing with Embarque to promise no "hidden fees," Kessler said. Rates, according to a spokesman "are only about $10 more than a taxi" in many instances.
The strategy, according to Kessler, is to "appeal to that other 60 percent" of a typical corporations' travelers that don't use limo services. Until now, pricing has prevented many of those travelers from using such a service.
In addition to a smaller workspace, Embarque offers fewer in-vehicle amenities and no in-airport meet and greet. After landing, Embarque customers are instructed to call a special number to learn where to meet their driver curbside. In contrast, with Carey's premium service, an extra employee is stationed in baggage claim to meet customers and escort them to their awaiting car and chauffeur.
While the price, fleet and amenities may differ with Embarque, Kessler said, the reservation system, billing, reporting, $20 million in comprehensive auto liability insurance coverage and driver standards do not. The company requires all drivers to undergo independent background checks, pre-employment and random drug and alcohol testing; be certified in the Smith System of Defensive Driving; have a conversational understanding of English; and have safe driving records that exceed state and local requirements.
Corporate clients can use the same account number, reservation number or book on the same Web site for both Carey and Embarque, and can book both via global distribution system, Kessler said. By year-end, customers also will be able to book Carey or Embarque via mobile device, he said.
"Mobile is very important with Embarque because it is used by more people who are responsible for their own travel. The road warriors who need the mobile app because their meeting just went long, and they need to change flight and pickup times," Kessler said.
Started in the Chicago area last summer, Embarque also is available in Baltimore, Boston, Los Angeles, Newark, New York, Orange County, Calif., Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Jose, Stamford, Conn., Washington, D.C., and London. The company is expected to expand service to Dallas, Detroit and Miami by year-end.
Expansion to additional cities and perhaps to franchise operations is planned for next year. Carey operates 50 branded locations that service 550 cities; it owns 80 percent of the locations and relies on franchises and global affiliates for the remaining 20 percent, Kessler said.
While lower-cost chauffeured options exist in local markets around the country, Kessler claimed that Embarque is the first multi-city, multi-service option. Carey's existing sales force is selling Embarque, and the company is negotiating volume-based contracts across both service options.
Separately, at the National Business Travel Association's convention here, start-up joint venture Sustainable Corporate Car Solutions LLC introduced Greengroundtransport.com, a Web-based application that "automates, organizes and manages corporate chauffeured transportation programs to reduce costs and deliver reductions in emissions," according to company statements. The site offers a vendor-neutral online booking and ride-sharing system, as well as environmental reporting.
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