The rising cost of travel and a need for expanded customer service has prompted Temple University to open its travel services to competition.
Beginning this December, travel arrangements authorized and paid for by the University can be made through five different travel agencies.
Previously the University’s sole travel agency was the Philadelphia-based World Travel.
“We saw our service fees per airline ticket go up year to year from $16 per ticket to [between] $25 [and] $40, depending on the trip,” said the University’s associate vice president of Business Services, Richard Rumer.
Rumer said he worked with the Maryland consulting firm Campus Travel Management to find a group of agencies that could guarantee the most competitive prices.
Temple pays for between 3,000 and 4,000 airline tickets per year, and Rumer estimated that the University could save tens of thousands of dollars annually with lower prices.
But even more crucial, according to Rumer, is the improvement in customer service that the new agencies will bring.
“We wanted to ensure that we found agencies that gave us the right level of customer service,” said Rumer.
“People will find that with more agencies they’ll have more options and they’re likely to get someone on the phone instead of a voice message.”
Rumer said that this change does not reflect on World Travel, which has serviced Temple for six years and will continue to do so along with the four new agencies.
“World Travel has been a great travel partner for us,” he said.
“We surveyed Temple faculty, staff and students to find the best agencies for the University, and they had good things to say about World Travel,” said the president of Campus Travel Management, Larry Handle.
“But a university doesn’t have a single culture. In terms of travel needs you’ve got department trips, you’ve got faculty trips, you’ve got trips for sports teams and student groups. One travel agency can’t specialize in everything.”
World Travel has closed its campus office in the lower level of the Student Center, which the company was not finding profitable.
Temple travelers can continue to make travel arrangements with World Travel by phone.
The new on-campus agency will be the Los Angeles-based STA Travel, which will open in World Travel’s former office in late January.
STA Travel specializes in worldwide student travel arrangements.
“I think people will find [STA’s] services to be user-friendly and state-of-the-art,” said Rumer.
“They specialize in student travel so they’ll be a good fit for our on-campus agency.”
The other new agencies are Marathon Travel, Journeycorp Travel and Traveleaders, all of which are based outside of Philadelphia.
None of these maintain an on-campus office, but Temple travelers will be able to contact them through toll-free numbers.
According to Rumer, official Temple travelers can also continue to book fares through the Internet or a non-preferred travel agency, so long as they are at least $25 cheaper than fares offered by one of the five preferred agencies.
“We know that a lot of people purchase tickets over the Internet,” said Rumer. “We don’t want to discourage finding the right deal.”
However, Rumer said that the University’s new travel partners should be able to meet most of the Temple community’s needs.
“People will have a choice, and they’ll be able to find the agency that fits them best,” he said.
Jerome Montes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org