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UC travel programs aim to cut costs and boost convenience, safety

You’ve probably read some of the dramatic headlines:

  • 31 UC researchers and study-abroad students flown out of Egypt amidst January’s civil unrest
  • UC researcher evacuated from New Caledonia’s mountain forests after crushing his leg in a fall
  • Three UC graduate students rescued from Haiti following last year’s devastating earthquake

It’s a dangerous world out there. But, as UC Chief Risk Officer Grace Crickette describes in a UC Irvine video, these members of the University of California family and many others were safely returned home, thanks to UC TRIPS.

The UC TRIPS insurance program was initiated in 2007 to watch over the hundreds of faculty, staff and students traveling in the world’s hot spots at any given time to carry out the university’s global mission. Housed in UC’s Financial Management Department of the CFO Division, the program is administered by UCOP’s Office of Risk Services in conjunction with all 10 UC campuses, five medical centers and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Another systemwide effort is under way that — although it garners fewer headlines — works together with UC TRIPS and promises to save the university millions in annual travel costs.

The UC Travel Program, also known as Connexxus (not to be confused with UC’s benefit administrator Conexis), has been in the works for nearly four years. It represents the university’s first-ever effort to provide an easy-to-use, comprehensive online travel service across the UC and California State University systems for air travel, car rental and hotel bookings.

The program is fully implemented at all UC campuses and is getting rave reviews. The goal? To save a bundle, of course. The program is one component of UCOP’s Working Smarter Initiative to reduce administrative costs UC-wide by $500 million over the next five years.

But in order to save money, you need data. Data collection was one of the program’s initial goals, one that has already helped provide better volume discounts for travel. Good data has also allowed UC TRIPS, another Working Smarter effort, to lower insurance rates about 35 to 40 percent and provide better safety and security coverage.

The key to both programs is the online booking and registration system.

“If you book through Connexxus, you are automatically and electronically enrolled in the insurance coverage,” says Matthew Golden, UCOP’s director of travel management and the mastermind behind Connexxus. The insurance includes accident coverage in case of medical emergency, natural disaster or other event requiring transport or evacuation.

The program’s first report, issued last month, details user data from January to August 2010. With a systemwide utilization rate of 21.7 percent, Connexxus saved the university $4.4 million. If utilization had been at 80 percent systemwide — the program’s goal — projected savings would have been $12.4 million.

“If you use this program you will save about 15 to 20 percent,” Golden says. “If you don’t use it, you will miss out. It’s as simple as that.”

See the complete story on the UC Newsroom website.

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