DALLAS -- Harvard University's travel manager believes the school's quest for a self-booking tool -- one its travelers will actually use -- is over, now that Expedia Corporate Travel is providing agency services for the university.

Priscilla Campbell, director of travel and reimbursement at Harvard, said the university implemented TRX's ResAssist two years ago, and before that, used American Express' first-generation tool, AXI. Neither product gained popularity among travelers.

"The problem we were having is that those tools were not all-inclusive for our needs," Campbell told TravelWeekly.com in an interview at the National Business Travel Association conference and trade show here. "The tools were slow, didn't offer Web fares and the cost of booking and fulfillment was very high, about $40. We were challenged to find a product that provides service and savings."

In Expedia Corporate Travel, Campbell believes she's found the solution that fits Harvard's needs and the travelers' needs. Unassisted online bookings cost $5, and agent-assisted bookings cost $20.

The university's travelers, many of who enjoy shopping for travel on the Internet, enjoy using a product they would use when buying personal travel, Campbell said. Expedia's brand strength will be an important factor in driving adoption, she added.

However, Harvard wouldn't have implemented Expedia Corporate Travel if the company couldn't meet Harvard's service requirements, Campbell said. For example, Expedia displays Harvard's private fares. Reporting and policy-control tools are also available.

And when there's a question or problem, Expedia employs a Boston-area account manager, Kim Williams, to serve Harvard and other universities Expedia recently signed up, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Northeastern University.

Williams is a travel industry veteran who has worked for American and Sabre.

"We expect high service," Campbell said. "It's part of our culture. The value needs to be there and so does the service."

In her mind, Expedia's service gave it an edge over Orbitz for Business, an online agency Harvard seriously considered.

"Although Orbitz has a slick tool, there were service concerns," Campbell said. "The travel agency is an outsourced operation [to Rosenbluth's Upstream division]. We didn't feel there was a commitment to make sure that service was in line with our expectations."

Considering that travelers may continue to shop other Web sites and that Harvard is still retaining WorldTravel BTI and a small agency in the Boston area to handle complex itineraries, Campbell said Harvard's goal is to process 50% of its bookings through Expedia by the end of this year.

If Harvard uses Expedia 70% of the time over a one-year period, she said, the university could save $1 million in travel management fees.

Harvard annually spends $52 million on travel and entertainment, including $20 million on air.

To contact reporter Jerry Limone, send e-mail to [email protected].

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