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Flying with the comeback kid.

Little Rock's World Wide Travel Gets Bill Clinton Where He Needs to Go

SOON AFTER GOV. BILL Clinton announced his bid for the presidency in October 1991, World Wide Travel Service Inc. began handling the campaign's travel plans.

By October 1992, World Wide had committed seven agents to Clinton-Gore campaign headquarters, working seven days a week, 20 hours a day.

Handling political travel plans is only one of the many services of World Wide, which ranks 24th out of more than 33,000 agencies in the country. World Wide, started by Betta Carney in 1971, is also the largest agency in Arkansas, according to Arkansas Business' annual survey.

"We've had a long-time business relationship with David Watkins, who was the operations manager of the Clinton campaign," says Steve Davison, World Wide's director of customer services. "So we started at the very beginning."

World Wide was responsible for the travel plans of Clinton's advance, field and staff personnel, as well as much of the travel for members of the Democratic National Committee.

"Another project that we did for them that consumed us was for the press and the Secret Service," Davison says. "When they fly on the traveling party's chartered aircraft, by (Federal Election Commission) regulations, the campaign is able to charge them a pro-rated fare for their seats, plus 10 percent."

World Wide invoiced all the charter flights and billed the press and Secret Service, Davison says.

"At a very early stage, the campaign was handling this on their own and sending invoices to major news organizations," Davison says. "When we contracted to do the work, we gave them our experience. We advised the campaign that billing these major news organizations expecting to get payment within a few days was really, quite honestly, a joke."

So, World Wide required anyone traveling with the campaign to pay by credit card.

"By wire transfer, we could get those funds back to the campaign within five business days," Davison says. "So, at the point when Bill became such an obviously strong candidate, the campaign just made it mandatory: If you wanted to fly on the governor's airplane, you gave us a credit card. And if you didn't, you got off."

Reinventing the Wheel

Davison acknowledged that the campaign's account was a "learn as you go" project.

"We have experience with large corporate accounts, but this was totally different," he says. "When you develop and customize systems and services for clients, you usually need an extended period of time to work it out. The time line on this event was so short and constantly picking up steam that we had to reinvent the wheel every other day."

Although nothing has been decided, Davison says World Wide is studying the possibilities of opening an office in Washington, D.C., to handle travel plans for Clinton's staff when he becomes president.

World Wide will open a ticketing facility in Washington to coordinate the travel for Clinton's transition personnel as he prepares to take office Jan. 20.

"A lot of the media and Washington insiders who found themselves in Arkansas expected one thing and found another," Davison says. "I would definitely say that the level of success and professionalism with which we handled the whole account was recognized and acknowledged.

"The fact that we ended up with the Democratic National Committee's business as well was proof of that. They had an agency in Washington, but they worked with us during the campaign."

World Wide has 30 locations in Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, Ohio and Florida.

One of the keys to World Wide's growth is the ticketing facilities located in several major Arkansas corporations.

World Wide has such offices at Acxiom Corp. in Conway, Arkansas Best Corp. in Fort Smith, Stephens Inc. in Little Rock, Systematics Information Services Inc. in Little Rock and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in Bentonville.

Several state agencies, with five employees, fell just short of making the list. They include Arkansas Travel Agency in Pine Bluff, Around the World Travel in Springdale and Travel Fair in Fayetteville.
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Title Annotation:Arkansas Business Rankings; World Wide Travel Service Inc. handles travel needs of Bill Clinton's campaign
Author:Smith, David (American novelist)
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Nov 16, 1992
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