E-Travel takes flight as GSA names winning vendors

The General Services Administration has awarded 10-year contracts to two companies that will help agencies migrate to the pair’s online travel services over the next three years.

The ceiling for all orders under the indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity E-Travel contracts is $450 million. The winning vendors, Northrop Grumman Corp. and Carlson Wagonlit Government Travel Inc. of San Antonio, must compete for agencies’ orders.

The two vendors must make their services available for governmentwide use by December. All agencies must migrate to the new services by Sept. 30, 2006.

“We expect to hit that without any trouble,” said Tim Burke, GSA’s E-Travel program manager. His team is working with the 24 largest agencies to determine when each one will move to E-Travel and how much implementation will cost.

The companies will provide end-to-end Web services to handle everything from processing travel authorizations and creating reservations to submitting claims and reconciling vouchers.

If agencies continued separately buying travel services using their current procedures, they would spend about $1 billion over the next 10 years, Burke said. With E-Travel, one of the 25 Quicksilver e-government projects, the total expenditures should be half as much, he said.

According to GSA, savings will be realized in two ways: improved workflow and actual cost savings. For example, moving from phone to online booking will save 25 percent to 60 percent per transaction, and new governmentwide travel data will improve negotiations with travel vendors. In addition, using commercially hosted Web services will cut the government’s technology costs, GSA said.

GSA, with 22 other agencies, conducted a six-month review before choosing the two contractors. The companies’ systems are similar; the primary difference between them is in the user interfaces, Burke said.

Carlson Wagonlit Government Travel developed its system three years ago, said Craig Thompson, the company’s vice president of government markets. It combines programs the company had developed with self-booking software from TRX Technology Services LP, which many agencies already use, and Sabre Inc., which travel agents and corporate travel departments use.

Another option

Northrop Grumman’s mission systems group in Reston, Va., created the other winning system, GovTrip. Company staff will work with agencies to configure GovTrip to support their travel processes, said Leo Hergenroeder, Northrop Grumman’s E-Travel service program manager.

Carson Wagonlit’s Thompson said most agencies appear to be planning to move to E-Travel between 2004 and 2006.

“It’s our understanding that a lot of agencies are anxious to get started,” he said. “Unlike a lot of other things, this improves their processes.”

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