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Consortium buying group TravelpoolEurope continues to succeed where others have failed. Growing substantially since its debut in 1991, the advisory and purchasing organization now provides travel and expense services spanning 35 nations to 65,000 employees of 27 member firms, based mainly in the Nordic countries.
During its 18-year history, the group formerly known as the Danish Travel Pool has tried and retired several online booking tools--it has stuck with i:FAO's cytric during the past four years--established its own call center when labor and pricing markets made it favorable to do so and built a proprietary data and service platform for expense management.
TravelpoolEurope members include Emerson, Fujitsu, Mattel, Swiss Re Denmark, and retailers Coop Danmark and Coop Sweden. Total travel volume in 2008 was €35 million (US$49 million), a substantial increase from 1999, when TPE claimed $8 million in purchasing volume for its 13 members, according to the Financial Times. The group claims it saves as much as 25 percent annually for member organizations. It is a nonprofit that returns to members any surplus.
"TPE works as the company's advisor in connection with the planning of a travel strategy, supplier contracts, questions regarding travel policy and as a controller in connection with the consolidation of the company's travel purchasing ... capable of advising decision-makers independent of suppliers' interests, kickbacks, etc.," according to the organization's Web site. "TPE takes advantage of the joint buying power of the companies and is therefore able to offer a discount larger than the discount achieved by each company on their own."
TravelpoolEurope managing director Søren Schødt at last month's Association of Corporate Travel Executives conference in Prague offered an update on the consortium and described its initiatives related to corporate social responsibility. "CSR elements have been around for a long time in the Nordic countries but not under that label," Schødt told The Transnational. "Carbon tracking is probably the newest stuff, whereas duty of care and some of the other elements have been part of Danish and Nordic legislation for many years."
The cytric booking system indicates for travelers the CO 2impact of different options, even down to the class of service as business class has a greater footprint than economy. Members make their own decisions about green policies, and Schødt said Swedish companies in particular have been reporting on carbon usage since the mid-1990s.
Procurement, Fulfillment And Middleware
TravelpoolEurope has 25 employees, including agents and those handling expense management and procurement. The group eight years ago opened a call center to serve Denmark and Sweden because "the market exploded with new types of tickets and prices went down, so it was difficult to take a standard procurement approach," said Schødt. "All our very good deals were suddenly not worth anything because the market went crazy. So instead we took onboard a lot of new technology so we could scan and search the Internet and combine different booking sources. We brought on high-skilled staff to have them go online and take advantage of the opportunity that was in the market. It may not be like that forever or in other markets."
Services in other markets and 24/7 coverage are outsourced to BCD Travel.
Schødt attributed the group's growth to "international implementations and its add-on expense management" solution. In addition to procurement, online booking and fulfillment services, TPE offers members "our own middleware technology to keep continuity," said Schødt. "For expense management, we do all the end-to-end administration. We reconcile and reimburse the travelers. We have a single invoice, one general ledger file and they do one payment to us. It's a full process program."
The expense management software used by employees is provided by Concur, but the middleware interacts with the members' human resources databases--and supports accounting and reimbursement processes. "We store data between any external providers--Concur, global distribution systems, cytric, TMCs, etc.," noted Schødt, "which gives a fantastic flexibility, continuity and transparency.
"The middleware contains the master profile, which is linked across all systems," he continued. "There is one total data warehouse where orders go through the expense system and back again through the middleware where all the general ledger files are processed. We don't store very much in the Concur system."
TPE also offers outsourced expense management services to nonmember firms under the Expenture brand, formed in 2002.
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