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Airline Consolidation

»Posted by on Feb 6, 2015 in Airlines, Global Distribution Systems, Industry Postings, White Papers | 0 comments

People tend to get concerned when they hear the words consolidation or merger when used with the subject of Airlines.  Recent consolidations have created arguments from analysts, labor officials and consumers.  Some say mergers lead to efficient services while others believe this will lead to loss of jobs, less flight schedules and almost always higher fares. So, what does happen when two or more airlines decide to consolidate or agree to a merger?  The consolidation/merger will go through several steps that will ultimately lead to one operation.  Below is a brief summary of some of the steps they will need to partake in: The airlines involved will need to sign an agreement after all legalities have been negotiated. Integrate management, routing structures,...

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Frequent Flyer Miles

»Posted by on Feb 5, 2015 in Airlines | 0 comments

The Frequent Flyer Program (FFP) is a program that is offered by many airlines.  Travelers enrolled in this program can accumulate Frequent Flyer Miles (kilometers, points, segments) corresponding to the distance flown on the airline.  Frequent Flyer Miles (FFM) earned on official travel were considered the property of the Government up until The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002, that was signed by President Bush on December 28, 2001.  Section 1116 of this law specifically states that federal employees may retain for personal use promotional items earned, including Frequent Flyer Miles on official travel, only if these items are obtained under the same conditions as those offered to the general public at no additional cost to the...

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E-Travel System and FTR Compliance

»Posted by on Feb 5, 2015 in Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

As the system administrator for my Bureau’s E-Travel system, I have had my struggles in establishing all the routing lists, lines of accounting, groups, etc. that are needed to get a system off the ground.  These are never ending duties in my organization; as employees are constantly moving around, lines of accounting change or new people need added to the groups. I also have Regional Administrators in each of my Regional offices who assist me with these duties now that that we have implemented fully.  It is easier for them to take care of their own regional people. We have worked hard as a team in training our travelers, travel planners, reviewers, and approving officials on the E-Travel system.  We have utilized hands-on, classroom, online, and WebEx...

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E-Travel Price Resistance

»Posted by on Feb 4, 2015 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

When e-travel first came to our agency, some of the strongest resistance came from this new database cost transparency; all the different fees were a significant point of stakeholder resistance and later an indicator of evolving cultural change.  Price sensitivity has been changing as people become more accustomed to e-travel. As E-travel came on line, some of the most vocal complaints that we heard from the program offices and individual travelers involved the sudden “appearance” of fees for booking online or going through an agent.  The fee schedule was confusing and could be complex.  Many claimed that they had never had to pay the fees before (they had, but often they were considered part of the ticket price), and there were a lot of complaints about...

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TIME FOR CHANGE

»Posted by on Feb 3, 2015 in Electronic Travel Systems, Government Traveler Comments, Industry Postings, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 0 comments

CHANGE is defined by Merriam Webster as “to make different or to replace with another”. Change is something that affects people in different ways. Some people love change. Others have issues with change. Like it or not, change happens. If we did not change, we would still be using pen and paper. When a child is born, the baby changes every day, beginning with their first smile. Then it’s on to their first word and then the first step! Businesses have to be willing to make changes in order to be successful. The same concept applies to government, especially to the travel world. I started my government career ten years ago. There have been quite a few changes in those ten years. Change was happening when I started. At that time, my agency was converting to a...

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Government Travel Program: An Active Duty Perspective

»Posted by on Feb 3, 2015 in Electronic Travel Systems, History and Overview, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The history of the Government Travel Program from the active duty perspective is long and varied.  Knowing the history of where Department of Defense travel has been makes it easier to understand the changes being made now and the path to the future. When one examines travel from the active duty perspective you can see there are two major periods that have impacted travel payment processing: the pre and post Government Travel Credit Card era, and the pre and post Defense Travel System (DTS). Before the advent of the government travel credit card most Temporary Duty (TDY) travel was limited to a small cadre of individuals.  Service members often could not afford the added expense of traveling without an advance payment.  Travel advances created a series of...

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Changes in Government Travel

»Posted by on Feb 2, 2015 in History and Overview | 0 comments

It is amazing how far the Travel Services and related services like hotels & rent a car have changed since the late seventies.  Government travelers used to buy their tickets from SATO with no choice of carrier or price given to them.  In 1978, deregulation happened.  Government officials realized that they have a very strong buying power as the single largest corporation to purchase airline tickets; thus, in 1980, the government started negotiations on a program called CITY PAIR in which they allowed airlines to compete between 2 points for the government business.  The progress was phenomenal from 11 city pairs to over 5000 city pairs now. Airlines developed Computer Reservation Systems (CRS) to help them manage their bookings and yields.  These systems...

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CRS, GDS & the E Gov Travel System

»Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in Airlines, Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

In the 1950s the airlines began using computers to keep track of reservations and the seats available on their flights. By the 1970s airlines such as United Airlines, American and TWA began to install computerized systems in travel agencies. These systems were the first airline computer reservation systems and allowed travel agencies to obtain information and make reservations for several airlines. A computer reservation system (CRS) is a computerized system designed to create and maintain a database concerning reservations and links distributors and suppliers to a centralized storehouse of information for the primary purpose of making reservations. In the beginning, CRS’ were used to make airline reservations only. By the late 1970s airlines were installing...

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Contracting for Travel Services

»Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in Contracting for Travel Services | 0 comments

The hotel booking reports the government receives only states the reservations made, lacking the actual stay.   With the latest technology why is this issue not resolved? The government should be able to have the most recent and effective technology means to establish a smooth operation. How will the government have the latest changes on travel trips, since many changes occur hourly and/or daily?  This is another issue that should be resolved or be more of an importance to the government. Other reporting techniques from credit card companies are contributing to make this process smoother, by reporting hotel bookings are payments. However, there should be more focus on this matter. The travel should not have the burden of searching for other hotel properties...

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Travel Management Centers

»Posted by on Jan 31, 2015 in Industry Postings, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

ARC (Airline Reporting Corporation) was set up for the accreditation of travel agents, standardized ticketing, a computerized system and a repository of information and data. An agency has several requirements to maintain accreditation. Failure to maintain these standards can lead to financial penalties or loss of the right to issue tickets. Receipts of weekly transactions are reported to ARC through IAR; data and funds are dispensed from the reporting. IATA defines the three letter airport codes, used for baggage routing and airport identification. Travel agents responsible for government travelers have training on a continuing basis for trip planning and ticketing. The GDS provides an information base which aids in higher productivity for the travel...

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Hotels Embracing Technology

»Posted by on Jan 30, 2015 in Hotels, Industry Postings, White Papers | 0 comments

From what I’ve been reading lately, it looks like the hotel industry is stepping up to the plate when it comes to implementing some of the emerging technologies into their business. Now I know my way around a computer quite well, but I’m not the most tech savvy person when it comes to all of these devices out there. However, even a novice techie will be able to benefit from some of these new technological enhancements being implemented by various hotels. As a Federal traveler, I recognize some of these hotel brands as participants in the FedRooms program so I know we will have the chance to experience some of these advancements in the near future. Travelers may have already encountered some of these. One example of this new technology is a new door lock...

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Travel Spend Data

»Posted by on Jan 30, 2015 in Business Intel/Data Mining | 0 comments

The General Services Administration solicitation for a management information system solution is the next logical step forward in trying to capture the data necessary to get a handle on overall spending, to identify travel patterns, to negotiate rates, and to make statistical data available that will prove invaluable for the various agencies. Overall spending: Today trying to gather government travel data is virtually impossible. Every department is doing its own thing and there is no easy way to capture the statistical information needed to control costs, to reduce spending, and to set budgets. Travel patterns: It is very difficult to know what you need without destination and vendor spend. Today each agency is meeting its mission without regard for what a sister...

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Hotel and Motel Fire Safety Act of 1990

»Posted by on Jan 29, 2015 in Hotels | 0 comments

The Hotel and Motel Fire Safety Act of 1990 (PL 101-391) was passed into law September 25, 1990, by Congress in an attempt to promote fire safety in hotels, motels, and other public accommodations, as well as, save lives and protect property. This law mandates that federal employees on official travel must stay in accommodations and hold federally funded meetings or conferences in properties that adhere to the requirements set forth in the legislation guidelines. Hotels must be in compliance of section 29 of the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974 in its entirety as well as the amendments put forth as The Hotel and Motel Fire Safety Act, section 3. The amendment is applicable to all places of public accommodation and does not exempt properties built...

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TDY Authorization Process from a Systems Perspective

»Posted by on Jan 28, 2015 in Global Distribution Systems | 0 comments

The majority of my experience and history while working in travel has been with Temporary Duty Travel (TDY).   In this posting, I will provide an overview of the TDY authorization process from a systems perspective.  Three systems are utilized to facilitate the Temporary Duty Travel (TDY) Authorization Process.  The systems are the EGOV Travel system, a middleware which provides communication between the EGOV Travel system and the Global Distribution System, and the accounting system.  The EGOV Travel system is used to create a travel authorization, select reservations, perform necessary pre-audits, and route the authorization through an appropriate organization approval chain.  The travel authorization contains specific details regarding trip including the...

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Understanding Accounting

»Posted by on Jan 28, 2015 in Hotels, Industry Postings, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Billing is often the final step of the transactional process wherein vendors have the opportunity to frustrate, or even infuriate, the client. In the case of hotels, a traveler who made a reservation, checked in, stayed at a hotel without issue, and enjoyed a smooth checkout process is not entirely free of potential problems until the bill has been paid. To assist with the reconciliation process for Individually Billed Accounts (IBA), Centrally Billed Accounts (CBA), and Direct Billed Accounts, some elementary materials communicating a base-level expectation of the kind of billing and terms vendors should expect could prove useful. Particularly in heavily franchised industries, the dissemination of rudimentary information explaining proper invoicing could prove...

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FedRooms

»Posted by on Jan 27, 2015 in Business Practices, Hotels | 0 comments

FedRooms, formerly known as the Federal Premiere Lodging Program (FPLP), is the official Federal Government lodging program that will allow for substantial savings.  The FedRooms rate in comparison to “government” rates will always be at lower cost to matching prices, which creates a savings for your agency. The Government negotiates FedRooms rates while “government” rates are set by the vendor and are arbitrary. Other benefits of staying at a FedRooms hotel are the 4 p.m. (or later) day of arrival cancellation policy, no early departure fees or any other hidden fees.  Hotels that are approved by FEMA as fire safe hotels offer the Fedrooms rate. Book the FedRooms rate using either your E-Gov System, your travel management center (TMC) or online...

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Embedded vs Accommodated

»Posted by on Jan 27, 2015 in Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

Prior to moving to an eTS in 2006 our agency placed task orders off of the GSA Travel Services Solution (TSS) Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) 599-2 for three separate TMC’s.  As a cross service provider we wanted to provide options to our customers.  Most of our customers selected a mid-sized TMC that provided the best price and also was well know for outstanding customer service.    We rarely had issues with the TMC and knew we could always count on them when our travelers where in a bind. Once we moved to an eTS we considered continuing with one of our current travel agencies as an accommodated TMC.  However, the one TMC, which partnered with our eTS and was embedded, offered a lower price for both traditional and on-line booking and came with a great...

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Travel Teamwork

»Posted by on Jan 26, 2015 in Business Practices, History and Overview, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

I work in the Travel Division of a Government Shared Service Provider (SSP). Under the Director’s office is a section for Division wide policy research and information. Travel is a broad subject; therefore, the Division is broken down into two Branches of travel expertise. One is for travelers relocating to a new city or country which is called Permanent Change of Station. The Branch in which I work is for travelers that are traveling on a temporary basis and is called Temporary Duty Services. This is for travelers that will be traveling for one day up to approximately a month. It can be more but generally, the time-frame is typically a week or less. Our Branch is then broken down into the following areas: Customer Service, Accounting, and Charge Card. In...

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Fed Rooms Lodging Program

»Posted by on Jan 25, 2015 in Hotels | 0 comments

Federal travelers often have a hard time finding a hotel within per diem to meet their official business needs.  Hotels may offer a “government” rate, a per diem rate, and now the new FedRooms rate.  Each hotel determines the “government” rate that may be higher than the specified per diem rate for the location and may have hidden fees or cancellation fees. FedRooms is the official government-wide lodging program, contracted through GSA to simplify the lodging process for federal travelers and save the government money.  Currently more than 5,000 hotels in more than 1,600 cities around the world participate in the FedRooms program.  If a traveler can’t find a hotel in the city they visit often, they may nominate a hotel by visiting the link on...

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Removing Humans From the Travel Equation?

»Posted by on Jan 25, 2015 in Industry Postings, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

I was struck by a comment in Section 3a.5 of the training materials, “TMC/CTO Support,” in which it is stated: “It was projected early in the development of the electronic travel systems that they would entirely replace travel agencies.” The expectations of computerization often surpass the realities of automated systems that are, first and foremost, designed and constructed by fallible human hands. Add to that the potential for system crashes, computer viruses, hacking, power outages, WiFi service disruption, and the myriad other possible crises facing modern technology on a daily basis, and any reasonable mind should be able to rule out the possibility of a system for governing any process that can be fully automated. When the anchor of a single ship can...

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Contracting for Travel Services

»Posted by on Jan 24, 2015 in Contracting for Travel Services | 0 comments

Procurement and Travel are not usually handled by the same types of offices. Yet they need to come together when trying to procure either Travel Management Services or an E-Gov Travel System. The travel teams are the functional experts that can identify the needs of the agencies and what the specific requirements will be. The contracting officer can counsel on the complicated procurement processes and ensure all steps are accurately followed. The request for information stage and drafting the unambiguous requirements can be one of the most difficult steps. If you miss something that may be vital to your agency, it may be defined as out of scope later in the process and require modification. In an effort to avoid costly mistakes, involve as many subject matter...

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Split Disbursement

»Posted by on Jan 23, 2015 in Business Practices | 1 comment

Effective October 1, 2005, OMB Circular A-123 mandated the use of split disbursement for government travelers. Split disbursement is the process of dividing a travel voucher reimbursement between the charge card vendor and the traveler. The balance owed to each is sent directly to the appropriate party. On April 21, 2005, the Department of the Treasury formally waived requirements of 31 CFR 208.6 and 210.5. This waiver allowed Federal agencies to issue part or all of an employee’s travel reimbursement to the travel card-issuing bank for crediting to the employee’s travel card account. For more information on the split disbursement waiver, you may visit this website: http://www.fms.treas.gov/news/split_travel_disbursement_waiver.pdf Split disbursement offers a...

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Federal Travel Regulations and ETS

»Posted by on Jan 23, 2015 in Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

In 2002 General Services Administration (GSA) introduced electronic travel systems to create end-to-end travel services for government employees.  The E-Gov Travel Service or ETS was to enable Federal Travelers to create their authorizations, make reservations, and process vouchers within one system.  Among other requirements, the systems had to integrate Government wide travel policies known as the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR).  The FTR administers the laws governing travel allowances and entitlements for federal travelers. The integration of the Federal Travel Regulations into the ETS system was one of the most controversial, yet needed requirements.  Many travelers were either not familiar with the Federal Travel Regulations or chose not to abide by...

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Travel Professional Resources/Best Practices

»Posted by on Jan 22, 2015 in Business Practices | 0 comments

In section 5a, it was interesting to read about all resources available should questions arise. In my case, a help desk is just a call away and questions, concerns, and problems, are efficiently and expeditiously handed. I did find this section helpful as it listed all the available sources and their email addresses. I also found it informative to learn that each federal agency might have a travel policy that incorporates relevant regulations and procedures to that agency. That certainly is the case with the Postal Service. In reading section 5b, I also thought of the term “Best Practices” to describe most of the material. As the section initially stated, travel is a small part of most employee’s jobs. The less time it takes to make official travel...

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Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

»Posted by on Jan 22, 2015 in Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

With the invention of each new tool comes an additional problem.  When the eTravel systems were developed, they were meant to make things easier on all involved in the government travel process.  In most ways, they are successful.  The one area that is key to making the system work is keeping travelers informed.  I’ve found through my experience that no matter how much you try, you can never give out too much information to the travelers.  If there are any problems with the system, it’s better to inform the traveler before they find it on their own.  If they’re trying to do something and come across the issue then they tend to get a little more worked up.  If they are aware of the problem before they run into it and already have a...

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PER DIEM

»Posted by on Jan 21, 2015 in Hotels, Industry Postings, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The General Service Administration (GSA) establishes per diem rates for the continental US, which are referred to as CONUS. The Department of State establishes rates outside the continental US, which are OCONUS. These are generally referred to as foreign. Per Diem rates are reviewed on an annual basis. A government traveler is eligible for per diem when they perform official travel away from their official duty station. The traveler must be in a travel status for more than 12 hours in order to be entitled to per diem. Lodging, meals, and incidental expenses make up the per diem allowance of a government traveler. The allowance is an amount that is allowed for each day. The travelers Temporary Duty (TDY) location determines the maximum per diem reimbursement...

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Global Distribution Systems

»Posted by on Jan 20, 2015 in Airlines, Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems | 0 comments

The information in Section 2A on Global Distribution Systems (GDS) was very informative and interesting. It has been my experience that many Government travelers do not understand the GDS underlying our Online Booking Engines and E-Gov travel Systems. One improvement that would be extremely helpful to the Government would be if the General Services Administration could convince all airlines that want to participate in the City Pair Program, be required to be mandatory participants in the GDS. It is frustrating to our users when they follow all the Government’s mandatory requirements such as mandatory use of the city pair program, mandatory use of an E-Gov Travel system and are still charged a full service fee because the airline does not participate in the GDS....

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Global Distribution Systems (GDS)

»Posted by on Jan 20, 2015 in Airlines, Business Practices, Global Distribution Systems, Hotels, Rental Cars, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

How much do you know about the global distribution system (GDS) that is used by your E-Gov Travel System?  Maybe your E-Gov System uses Sabre, Galileo/Apollo, Worldspan or Amadeus.  Currently, these are the four major GDS systems. My agency chose an E-Gov Travel System that uses the GDS, Sabre. The GDS houses the necessary information that will allow travel agents to book and sell airline tickets, book hotel rooms, make rental car reservations, and reserve rail reservations and more. The first GDS, Sabre, was created by the airlines in the 1960s.  Sabre has been around a lot longer than its competitors; Amadeus was created in 1987, Worldspan in 1990 and Galileo/Apollo in 1993. These complex systems have numerous capabilities.  Besides what was previously...

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City Pair Fares Are They Still Cost Efficient?

»Posted by on Jan 19, 2015 in Airlines, Industry Postings, White Papers | 0 comments

In November 2011, Executive Order 13589 “Promoting Efficient Spending” was signed in to order. In that Executive Order, each agency was directed to reduce its combined costs in a variety of administrative categories by not less than 20 percent in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. A follow-up memorandum issued in May 2012 noted (I’m paraphrasing here) that while travel is often necessary for federal employees to discharge their duties, we are also required to be good stewards of federal funds and agencies must do all they can to manage their travel budgets efficiently. The memo went on to state that each agency shall spend at least 30 percent less on certain travel expenses than they did in FY2010 and to maintain the reduced rate through FY2016. This reduction in travel...

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From One System to Another

»Posted by on Jan 19, 2015 in Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

When I began working in the travel department at my agency, we were using an electronic travel system to process travel requests.  It was a simple program to use but it did not have the capability of making reservations directly with the airlines or hotels. Our agency was able to write an interface that would data link the files from this electronic system directly to our accounting system. There was very little manual posting of invoices into our accounting system by using this electronic system. The downfall of this system was there were no good reporting capabilities. When the E-Travel initiative came about, representatives from my agency were chosen to help in the testing and selection of which electronic travel system our department would select. The system...

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ETS Customer Implementations

»Posted by on Jan 18, 2015 in Electronic Travel Systems, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

The keys to a successful eTS implementation are open communication, documentation, and both parties being consistent and reliable. Our overall goal in eTS customer implementations is to assist in providing a smooth, timely transition by: Clearly defining conversion goals Mitigating risk issues that could result in monetary or time loss Optimizing/revamping current business processes the customer performs Administering end user training on the eTS Our eTS customer implementation process usually consists of four steps. We begin implementations with a project kick off meeting with the agency. These are normally on-site visits at the agency. During this kick off meeting several things are accomplished such as: Introductions A demo of the eTS Provide the...

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GDS System 2009

»Posted by on Jan 18, 2015 in Global Distribution Systems | 0 comments

The current GDS system platform remains relatively unchanged since it was first widely used in the 1970’s.  With all the advances in technology the GDS system continues to be DOS based requiring a series of commands to obtain information.  Even with the updated scripting and windows look the system continues to be antiquated compared to the new technology. This issue has become evident with Secure Flight the TSA passenger tracking system requiring the full name, date of birth, gender and redress number if applicable for every airline passenger.  The airlines and GDS systems have been scrambling in order to adapt their systems to accept the necessary fields.  This has become a long and tedious process as currently the systems have limitations on the number of...

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Fedrooms

»Posted by on Jan 17, 2015 in Hotels | 0 comments

FedRooms is the only official government-wide, government sponsored lodging program initiated and managed by GSA (General Services Administration) to outsource the government hotel program to a contractor.  This is in support of the President’s Management Agenda (to simplify end-to-end travel for the Federal employee).  FedRooms is a streamlined and efficient lodging program designed to bring significant government-wide savings.  FedRooms gives the government an opportunity to save $365 million dollars annually, saving the Treasury a possible $46,000,000.00. FedRooms is available to government travelers, and at no cost to the agency.  FedRooms is available to all federal and military employees as well. FedRooms is a lodging program that travelers are...

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Understanding All Aspects of Government Travel

»Posted by on Jan 16, 2015 in Government Traveler Comments | 0 comments

As I continue day to day being the Social & Government Sales Professional at The Gettysburg Hotel and also taking the Certified Government Travel Professional Training Course I feel that I am learning both sides of the Government Market at the same time.  The training course has really brought my position full circle.  I have come to understand all of the steps that Government Travelers have to take in order to actually make a trip somewhere. There seem to be many options available for the Government Traveler from renting a car or a hotel room to making airline reservations.  I actually had a phone call the other day from a large travel agency reserving hotel accommodations for a Government Traveler coming to town for a meeting.  As the process seemed...

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Premium Class Travel

»Posted by on Jan 16, 2015 in Contracting for Travel Services, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Recently, I heard a Government manager say, “Perception is reality”. Nothing could be truer when it comes to Government travel.  As public servants, we are traveling on the public’s dime, so to speak.  We must remain cognizant of this at all times.  Even the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) brings this point home in §301-2.3: “You must exercise the same care in incurring expenses that a prudent person would exercise if traveling on personal business.” One of the areas where this is extremely important is premium class travel. Premium class includes both business class and first class.  It is best described as any class other then coach class for air travel and any class other than the lowest class available on a train.  It is...

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Federal Government Travel

»Posted by on Jan 15, 2015 in Airlines, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

As with any industry in today’s business times, the history of that industry is important to understand the direction it may move in the future.   Federal government travel and understanding the evolution of government travel planning is essential not only for federal travelers but those who plan travel for each specific entity of the federal government.  As we move into the future, all of the aspects of federal travel and the unique needs of travelers and their specific branch of the federal government must be studied, applied and followed accordingly. Government travel is regulated by numerous laws and regulations.  Understanding the laws and rules that apply to government employee travel and each branch they are employed by is essential to doing business...

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First Class and Business Class Travel

»Posted by on Jan 15, 2015 in Airlines | 0 comments

We are a government agency and provide reimbursable administrative services to other government agencies. Of course, the service line I work for is travel. We support the E-Gov Travel initiatives with a customer support desk. We average about 5,000 calls per month, with most of them being about the system, but quite a few involve travel policy. The majority of these are in the category of airfare and the difference between contract fares (YCA), capacity controlled contract fares (-CA) and non-refundable fares. Frequent travelers understand the differences pretty well, but the vast majority of federal travelers are infrequent travelers and do not always understand what the requirements are for the types of airfares they can select. In addition to this, travelers...

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Baggage Fees Increase

»Posted by on Jan 14, 2015 in Airlines | 0 comments

More and more airlines are starting to charge additional fees for checked baggage.  Commercial Baggage fees for the first bag can range from $10 – $50 with a second baggage fee of $80 and over, according to weight.  Some airlines have even added fees for carry-on baggage.  “It’s time to draw the line,” Sen. Schumer said. “Airlines should not be allowed to charge for overhead luggage.”  Schumer has received commitments by other airlines who have vowed to not charge for carry-on baggage.[1] Below is information from the FTR geared towards carriers under the City Program contracts.  To make sure you get the most current information on baggage allowance policies you can  check with your agency’s Travel Management Center...

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DOD Lodging Programs

»Posted by on Jan 13, 2015 in Hotels, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The Department of Defense (DOD) has several different programs for lodging.  All of the programs produce savings to the tax payer. Lodging facilities listed in the Defense Travel System (DTS) are either part of the Federal Rooms Program, and/ or FEMA compliant hotels.  The hotels listed in DTS are provided to system users because of the cost savings to the government traveler.  The Federal Rooms Program and FEMA compliant hotels work well at saving the non-DOD travelers money, but even they do not provide the cost savings of the military lodging system.  The military lodging system is not currently used by DTS. The Joint Federal Travel Regulation (JFTR) requires uniformed service members ordered to a U.S. Installation (as opposed to a geographic location like...

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Secure Flight

»Posted by on Jan 13, 2015 in Airlines | 0 comments

It was recommended by the 9/11 Commission Report that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) take over the matching of the terrorist watch list from airlines. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and (TSA) developed a behind the scenes, prescreening program that will theoretically match traveler information against government watch lists to identify suspected and known terrorist and individuals who have been misidentified in the past – Secure Flight. Secure Flight is intended to prevent known or suspected terrorist from boarding flights and protect legitimate airline customers identity.  By moving the watch list matching responsibility that was previously performed by dozens of air carriers to TSA, it has simplified and streamlined the process,...

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Airline Fare Codes

»Posted by on Jan 12, 2015 in Airlines, Industry Postings | 2 comments

YCA, CA, CB, DG . . . What do all of these airfare codes mean?  Airfare codes were designed to help us, but they can be very confusing when we don’t know what they mean.  Don’t worry; I was confused too until I did a little research. First, let’s look at what an airline fare code is.  Fare codes are a way for airlines to differentiate between class of service, cost of ticket, award ticket, etc.  We will be looking at four airline fare codes used for government travel, but let’s first look at the government’s airfare program. The airline city pair program is a successful program between the US General Services Administration (GSA) and the airlines.  Yearly, GSA contracts with airlines to get discounts off the price of commercial...

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Government Travel Policy Administration

»Posted by on Jan 11, 2015 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

My agency’s helpdesk not only supports our selected E-Gov Travel system, but all the associated questions that go along with it. A primary area is the Federal Travel Regulations. While seemingly straight-forward, there are many gray areas that are left to agency discretion. In fact, there are about 14 areas in the FTR that an agency must have a policy about such as the size of rental car to authorize, the amount of telephone calls to reimburse, the transportation method most advantageous to the government, etc. Often there is a something different to a policy question that makes it unique and has to be researched. In order to accomplish this, we have a Departmental travel contact for the agency’s Bureaus that assits. After that, we verify with...

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CGTP Open Letter

»Posted by on Jan 11, 2015 in Industry Postings | 0 comments

As a Travel Coordinator for the Board of Veteran Appeals, I am responsible for making travel arrangements for Veteran Law Judges and Counsel who travel to over 64 Regional Office locations world wide. My responsibilities include but are not limited to booking flights, lodging accommodations, ground transportation and preparing travel plans as well as vouchers. The booking engine that we use to service the Boards travel needs is Fed Traveler, which is very user friendly, but complicated to manipulate if adjustments or changes are required. On September 5, 2007 all travel coordinators for VA wide received an email from Veterans Affairs financial service center (VAFSC) that we will be changing from Sabre travel to World Span. The timing of this transition was poorly...

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The Auto part of Planes, Trains and Automobiles…

»Posted by on Jan 10, 2015 in Electronic Travel Systems, Industry Postings, Rental Cars | 0 comments

The material covered in sections 2d (rental cars) and 3a (Electronic Travel Systems) is fascinating in both how the government divides responsibility for administering travel and how modern technology has enabled the travel process to become more automated.  It is interesting that the responsibility for rental vehicles comes under the Department of Defense rather than either the General Services Administration or even the Department of State.  The reason for this may stem from DoD having the largest requirement of mobilizing individuals over land than either the GSA or DOS.  Of further interest are the similarities and differences between government employees and contractors.  Regarding car rentals, the Defense Travel Management Office’s Joint Travel...

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Government Car Rental Program

»Posted by on Jan 9, 2015 in Rental Cars | 0 comments

As a frequent government traveler, I have used the Government Car Rental Program many times.  Its ease of use and benefits to the government are similar to the Airline City Pair Program.  I use FedTraveler to process my travel orders and to book my rental car, as well as air transportation and hotel lodging, for my official government trips.  I charge these travel expenses to my government issued charge card.  Since I use the government approved booking channels, I can take advantage of all the benefits specified in the Car Rental Agreements which are not available to the general public.  This allows me to fulfill mission requirements and reduce the overall cost of renting vehicles.  Some of the benefits which I personally appreciate are: free collision...

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TMC Implementation

»Posted by on Jan 9, 2015 in Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

My agency selected an E-Gov Travel System (ETS) in June 2004.  Once the selection was made, we had to develop an implementation plan that not only included the ETS itself but also to switch to a new travel management center (TMC).  My agency decided to go with the imbedded TMC that is partnered with the vendor of our ETS. Throughout the implementation, we had to create business rules that the TMC would follow.  A couple topics that are included in our business rules are: Centrally Billed Accounts (CBA) Non-Refundable Tickets Some of the agencies that we service still use CBA’s for airline reservations.  Usually if the CBA is going to be used, the airline reservation is for a new traveler that does not yet have a government issued individually billed...

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Government Rental Car Program

»Posted by on Jan 8, 2015 in Rental Cars | 0 comments

 In every agency throughout my career that I have worked, I have found that there is always, (at least) one employee that fails to understand the use of the Federal Government Rental Car Program in its entirety.  While serving at the Department of Agriculture, I had the great pleasure of counseling this employee who was on official travel; however he decided to go out on his own and rent a vehicle.  Needless to say, the employee was involved in an accident.  I believe the rental car program should be handled exactly like the airlines.  Employees that are authorized use of a rental car should be well educated of all of the do’s and dont’s before sitting behind the wheel of the car.  On the other hand, I feel that the rental car companies should also be...

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Air Fares

»Posted by on Jan 7, 2015 in Airlines, Industry Postings | 0 comments

It is amazing how Government Travel evolved shortly after the enactment of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978. Like any other government agencies that is facing reduced  budgets, our travel and entertainment dollar consequently garners the most scrutiny among travel procurement tasks. Buyers and airlines have much to assess in determining  value with the pros and cons of airline contracting. Other says that airlines would be  better off measuring the profitability of client relationship. It’s all about the margins and  not the market share. Others say when the airline says profit margin, they should mean  contribution. Contribution is just the volume times the profit margin. Wherein the reality is, consumers should weigh whether airline contracts reward...

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Some Thoughts On The GSA Hotel System and Airline Flights

»Posted by on Jan 7, 2015 in Airlines, Hotels | 0 comments

First, the material does not note that some chains permit Government workers on personal travel to take advantage of Government rates. This is not so of all chains and you cannot use a Government credit card for such purposes. I suspect, that it works well for those chains that offer it as it creates a kind of brand loyalty and Government travelers are free to select the hotel they wish to use on Government travel. Second, the article does not note that per diem for a CONUS city is broken into two parts. The first part is for lodging, the second is for meals and incidentals. Government workers on CONUS travel, under GSA rules, receive up to the Government rate for hotels in an area (with some exceptions). However, that part of the per diem is limited by what the...

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TMC/Contracting for Travel Services

»Posted by on Jan 5, 2015 in Contracting for Travel Services, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

In sections 3b and 3c of the Certified Government Travel Professional Training Course, the areas of Travel Management Centers and Contracting for Travel Services are more involved than what I had thought. When I worked directly for the airlines, it seemed like a fairly easy process to understand how fares were created. The Postal Service contracts their travel needs to Omega World Travel. Our online system is called “Trip Manager for Government” and it is an easy and convenient system to make our travel reservations. We don’t normally use the hotel feature but occasionally use the rental car feature. My biggest issue is the current contacted government fares. The disparity between certain city pair fares is unreal. It is cheaper to travel to larger cities...

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Airline Deregulation To The Next Generation of Air Transportation

»Posted by on Jan 4, 2015 in Airlines, History and Overview | 0 comments

The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 has changed the face (and faces) of air travel from the Government controlling the routes each airline flew and overseeing the prices they charged to today’s market-driven industry, where customer demand determines the levels of service and price.  After deregulation, millions of Americans began to fly for the first time and continue to do so today. However, crowded airports, overbooked flights, and delayed flights have travelers believing that our nation’s air transport system is not functioning very well. When in reality, it is evidence of how well deregulation has worked to substantially lower fares, provide better passenger service, and provide passengers with more flight options.  Today, airplanes are fuller than...

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Government Rental Car Program

»Posted by on Jan 3, 2015 in Rental Cars | 0 comments

If you are planning an official government trip and need to rent a vehicle, then according to Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) 301-2.5, you are required to have specific authorization or prior approval before you travel.  This is because your government agency must decide if the rental of a commercial vehicle is advantageous to the government (FTR 301-10.450). If your trip is CONUS, then you must rent the vehicle from a vendor that participates in the Defense Travel Management Office’s (DTMO) U. S. Government Car Rental Agreement.  This is because DTMO has negotiated rental car agreements with certain vendors that include benefits such as unlimited mileage, free collision damage insurance, no fee for additional drivers or underage drivers, fixed rates, a...

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Rental Cars

»Posted by on Jan 2, 2015 in Rental Cars | 0 comments

When I look at how the rental cars company’s processes have changed over the years it is amazing. I am one of those people who were booking cars 20 years ago and it was not always a happy experience for my rentals or our clients. The process for you or your clients was trying because the rental car locations were not all at the airports and getting a rental car was a chore. Thru the SDDC program for US government personnel traveling on official business about 5,000 rental car locations with over 2.25 million vehicles available. The rental car offer special incentives such as fewer restrictive clauses, widespread availability and fantastic rates. Use of the government issued Visa and MasterCard charge cards is the preferred method of payment by rental card...

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Hotel Group Government Contracts

»Posted by on Jan 1, 2015 in Government Traveler Comments, Hotels | 0 comments

Most of our Government Contracts come to us directly from Government Agencies.  Our policy is that we cannot take a block of rooms out of inventory until we have an actual signed contract, purchase order or letter of intent.  Most times the contracting process takes so long that we end up waiting months for a definite answer that the group is actually coming. About six months ago we went ahead and broke our policy for Government groups and took four large bookings without any contract, purchase order or letter of intent.  We did this as a courtesy for the different groups because we really wanted their business and we knew that if we waited that the guest rooms would not be available when the contract became approved.  So far this year we have gotten stung two...

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Complex Government Travel Policies

»Posted by on Jan 1, 2015 in Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

My first reaction to the readings in these sections is that there seems to be a lot of rules and regulations that a government traveler must be aware of and follow to accomplish a trip. But then, when one remembers that DoD accounts for roughly 60% of the total Federal travel market, it becomes clear that the rules are necessary for good accountability. The DoD is responsible for end-to-end systems integration and currently this is through the contract with Northrop Grumman. It was designed specifically for DoD. It incorporates Title 5 and Title 31 of the US Code and includes US Code Title 37 for military personnel. The Joint Travel Regulation Vol. II is the governing regulation for DoD civil service personnel. Even by studying a functional diagram of the defense...

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SmartPay 2

»Posted by on Dec 31, 2014 in Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The current SmartPay program enables many Federal organizations to obtain purchase, travel, fleet, and integrated charge card products and services through what’s known as Master Contracts.  GSA has established these contracts with Citibank, Chase, Bank of America, US Bank, and Mellon Bank.  At the higher level, government agencies issue task orders against these existing contracts to obtain credit card products and services.  Due to the current existing contracts expiring in November 2008, the new credit card contracts, which are known as GSA SmartPay 2 were awarded during the summer of 2007. Within my office we offer and manage many different credit card programs for the many customers whom we provide travel services for.  Lately we have been heavily...

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Selling the Intangibles

»Posted by on Dec 30, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, History and Overview, Hotels, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Tom Seaver (Major League Baseball Hall of Famer) once said, “The concentration and dedication to the intangibles are the deciding factors between who won and who lost.”  I firmly believe this statement is profoundly accurate, and I believe it’s applicable to several aspects of business, personal accomplishments and other areas of life.  Furthermore, I strongly believe the intangibles are particularly relevant when in comes to soliciting the U.S. Federal Government. As Director of National Sales for Carlson Hotels Worldwide, my subject matter expertise is hotels.  I feel some of the points made in this document could perhaps be the most valuable contribution I have given to my fellow SGTP affiliates.  As a result, the strategies outlined in this...

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TRX & Business Intelligence

»Posted by on Dec 30, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The contract with TRX to implement a Business Intelligence system is absolutely the logical next step. Even with ETS and DTS, the federal government still has too many vendors transmitting data to effectively track and manage their travel programs. Having a single consolidated data warehouse from which reports can be generated will provide the government the appropriate tool to manage travel. What was surprising to me about solicitation TFL06-RH-1040 was the vast scope and limited timeline of the project. The project requires that TRX establish data feeds with not only DTS and the three ETS vendors, but also with: multiple charge card vendors (presumably GE Capital, Chase, Citibank, US Bank) every government TMC/CTO (which I understand there are approximately...

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Airline Code Shares

»Posted by on Dec 29, 2014 in Airlines | 0 comments

In many days past, there was a time when the name on the side of a plane – was actually the airline that you were flying on.  Those days are, as I’ve already mentioned, in the past.  Fast forward to current day and now, when you are certain that you just know that you bought a ticket on Airline A. However once you’ve arrived at the ticket counter of Airline A, you get sent to Airline B because Airline B is actually operating the flight.   And, alas, welcome to the world of airline code shares. A code share is an arrangement where an airline sells seats, under its own name, on another carrier’s flight.   Code sharing is a practice that allows airlines to extend their reach into cities or routes beyond those they actually serve.  It was...

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Defense Travel System (DTS)

»Posted by on Dec 29, 2014 in Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

The Defense Travel Management Office established in 2006, is a positive example of how government can streamline best practices and procedures into one government entity. The DTMO serves to establish direction, set policy and centrally manage the defense departments commercial travel programs. DTMO is responsible for the DTS online booking tool and monitors the usage, cost and customer satisfaction in order to determine the efficiency and effectiveness. Since the implementation of DTS (Defense Travel System) in 2006 the system now operates over 9,500 sites worldwide and has approximately 75,000 users accessing it on a daily basis. The positive customer service results and the efficiency of the tool have been hard to ignore. Per the Transportation Reform Act of...

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Government Individually Billed Travel Charge Card

»Posted by on Dec 28, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

The Government Travel Charge Card program is known as GSA SmartPay.  The GSA SmartPay program provides government charge cards to agencies throughout the United States government, through master contracts negotiated with major national banks.  In June 2007, the Office of Charge Card Management awarded the GSA SmartPay 2 master contracts to Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, and U.S. Bank.  Through these contracts, agencies can obtain a government individually billed travel charge card (IBT) as well as a number of different types of charge card services to support their mission needs. The Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) requires mandatory use of the government travel charge card by government travelers.  However,  each agency policy can mandate when an IBT should be...

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Per Diem

»Posted by on Dec 27, 2014 in History and Overview | 0 comments

Per Diem is the allowance for lodging (excluding taxes), meals and incidental expenses.  GSA (General Services Administration) sets the maximum per diem allowances for areas within the Continental United States (CONUS).  The State Department sets the foreign per diem rates (for example, Russia, Aruba, Bahamas etc.)  The Department of Defense (DOD) sets the non-foreign rates such as Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam.  These rates apply to all individuals traveling on behalf of the federal government. These rates are published annually, adjustments to the rates are made throughout the year, and may change as often as monthly. A study is conducted every 3-5 years on Meals and Incidental (M&IE) expenses, in an effort to obtain more accurate prices charged...

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Comprehending the GDS

»Posted by on Dec 26, 2014 in Global Distribution Systems | 0 comments

I never knew how complicated the GDS was – or what booking tickets entailed.  On the surface, booking a plane ticket on your typical website seems so easy.  Only after reading about the many layers and authorizations/regulations involved in the process did I appreciate all the work that can go into booking a plane ticket. The Global Distribution System (GDS) evolved from the Computer Reservation System (CRS), used as far back as the 1950’s.  Unlike the airline-owned CRS, the GDS is operated by non-airline companies, and the airlines are not required to use the GDS.  Perhaps the reason that some travel services or airlines choose not to participate in the GDS is because the GDS charges fees for its usage.  Currently there are three major GDS vendors:...

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Controlling Leakage in a Managed Travel Program

»Posted by on Dec 26, 2014 in Travel Management Centers, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

In order to manage business travel efficiently and maintain conformance with policy regulations, companies issue travel procedures that govern travel planning and cost reporting.  Owing to the many available travel options, the travel procedures provide detailed instructions for compliance. When making travel arrangements, employees are obligated to give primary consideration to the best interests of the company and any sponsors. The company expects employees to apply good judgment and professional integrity when planning business travel, in accordance with a code of ethics and to make travel plans at the lowest available cost. However, all corporate preferred travel programs experience some leakage at one point or another.   The loss of transactions through...

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Secure Flight

»Posted by on Dec 25, 2014 in Airlines, Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

Secure Flight is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) traveler pre-screening program that matches limited traveler information against government watch lists to identify known and suspected terrorists, prevent known and suspected terrorists from boarding an aircraft, facilitate legitimate traveler air travel, and protect individuals’ privacy.  The laws that mandate Secure Flight are the 9/11 Commission Report, which recommended that TSA take over watch list matching from the airlines, and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA) of 2004, which codified the 9/11 Commission Report and required DHS and TSA to assume from airlines the function of conducting pre-flight comparisons of airline...

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Revenue Management Errors

»Posted by on Dec 25, 2014 in Hotels, Industry Postings | 0 comments

Hotel rooms and airline seats are equally perishable items, losing 100% of their daily value when they sit empty. In many cases, the hotel industry has implemented Revenue Management programs that enable individual hotels to plan for highs and lows in their markets, thereby maximizing revenues by pricing competitively low to drive occupancy during times of low demand and pricing competitively high to drive rate during times of high demand. On occasion, some hotel companies or individual hotels attempt to implement revenue management strategies without fully understanding the complexities of the overall concept, which in the case of hotels is, ultimately, to drive RevPAR (revenue per available room). Some hotel companies focus on parts of the revenue management...

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Electronic Travel Systems

»Posted by on Dec 24, 2014 in Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

Within my agency we use the Defense Travel System (DTS) which is the ETS for Department of Defense. On March 28, 2008, the former Under Secretary for Reserve Affairs David Chu made it mandatory that DTS was to be use the Secretary of Defense mandated the use of DTS. This was as a result of the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 1997. My agency started using the system in 2007. It was a hard transition not only for me, but the travelers.  I was always use to processing travel the manual way. Therefore, my knowledge of this system was zero. We hired a contractor for six month to help sat up our organization. A few months thereafter, I attended Defense Travel Administrator Training. As I worked with the program, I became familiar with providing guidance with...

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ETS and Culture Change

»Posted by on Dec 23, 2014 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

When the ETS became mandatory at our agency, we found that there were several unpleasant surprises that had been lurking under the safety of our diffused paper processes.  A definite advantage of the ETS is that it made it much more difficult for various offices to operate their fiefdoms outside of the internal regulations and policies, and in some cases even appropriation law.  Where there was no political will to correct such violations, the ETS provided  an effective mechanism for bringing all parts of the organization into compliance. When we were in the initial pilot format, and the problems became more acute and obvious shortly after we required mandatory use of the system agency-side, we discovered several problems in our internal practices.  Many...

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It all comes full circle…

»Posted by on Dec 23, 2014 in Electronic Travel Systems, Industry Postings, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

One of the most fascinating aspects of the ETS systems in place for government travelers is that they are not ARC accredited. The differences and similarities between the commercial GDS-like systems (such as Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia) and those designed for the government traveler and ARC accreditation are based upon who is doing the buying and how the tickets are purchased. Cutting a fine point, it seems that no GDS-like system is, in itself, ARC accredited. The GDS is only a tool to reserve seating and ARC accreditation is based upon the entity handling the funds. The commercial GDS-like systems probably do not require ARC accreditation as their business models are an attempt to ‘cut out the middle man’ by allowing the consumer to directly purchase...

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Fedrooms

»Posted by on Dec 21, 2014 in Hotels | 0 comments

The federal government spends more than $2.5 billion on hotels every year.  The Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) states that one lodging program, FedRooms must be given first consideration when Government travelers book lodging for government business travel. FedRooms is the official government-wide, government-sponsored lodging program, in support of the President’s Management Agenda simplifying the lodging process for federal travelers and saving the government money. FedRooms negotiates hotel rates on behalf of the federal government in markets where government travelers need to stay.  Hotels in the FedRooms program are FEMA and ADA compliant, they have at least a two star Mobil Travel Guide or AAA rating, they accept government credit cards and other forms...

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Per Diem Rate Guidelines

»Posted by on Dec 21, 2014 in History and Overview, Hotels | 0 comments

One of the distinct challenges the hotel community continues to encounter are the criteria set for establishing the areas to be surveyed and how the data from Smith Travel is used. The Data used to compile the rate and occupancy information tends to focus on all the area within the city limits, but does not focus on the main areas of where government or business travel is concentrated. A good example is to compare Boston and San Francisco as these two cities for corporate travel rates are rather similar. Boston with seasonal rates of $203-$256 is a concentrated area with a large downtown and does not contain a suburban area containing many hotels. The majority of the hotels within the city limits are located in the downtown area. San Francisco has a similar...

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Government Travel — Behind the Scenes

»Posted by on Dec 20, 2014 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

As the world turns, so has government travel.  In the beginning, completing travel documents meant using a typewriter and typing a paper form that had several carbon pages.  This form was mailed to various offices to be approved and ended up in the travel office to be processed.  In today’s world, government travel orders have evolved to a complete automation process.  The introduction of the electronic travel systems created an end-to-end travel service to connect travel authorizations, reservations and voucher processing. Today, the traveler uses an electronic travel system to complete the itinerary with dates and locations of the travel.  He also makes his reservations including any airline, train, rental car, and lodging.  He adds in any expenses...

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Developing Interface Requirements for an E-GOV Travel Application and Accounting System

»Posted by on Dec 19, 2014 in Electronic Travel Systems, Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 0 comments

Many aspects surround developing an interface between an EGOV travel application and a financial system.  Understanding the type of documents the EGOV travel application produces and how the financial system handles each document type is very important.  Determining the vendors required for each transaction type is also essential in this assessment.  Accounting requirements of the financial system will also have a significant impact on the design of an interface.  The type of travel specific information passed to the accounting system is important and has great impact on the reporting capabilities of the financial system. The basic document types an EGOV travel application can produce include an authorization, a temporary duty voucher, a local voucher, and...

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Hotel Rating Standards are not Standardized Worldwide

»Posted by on Dec 19, 2014 in Hotels | 0 comments

Lodging rating systems offer travelers the mild reassurance of a quality establishment when traveling.  Government travelers usually prefer 2 to 4 star rated hotel properties, depending on location. In the U.S., Mobile Travel Guides and American Automobile Association (AAA), conduct inspections and issue an annual guidebook listing accommodations using a one-to-five star rating.  The ratings are based on specific standards regarding the services and facilities.  The most common classification systems include:  letter grading (A-F), “star” rating, diamond rating, which is very similar to the star rating, or a simple satisfactory or unsatisfactory rating. However, no standardized international classification system has been adopted. There is only one...

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Rental Cars

»Posted by on Dec 18, 2014 in Rental Cars | 0 comments

The Car Rental Program is managed by the Defense Travel Management Office (DTMO)  effective October 2007.  (All car rental information is available on the DTMO website).  This program is available to all US Government personnel traveling on behalf of the government for official business.  It offers attractive rates, few restrictive clauses, many benefits and is available to all government travelers who are authorized and licensed drivers. The Government Rental Car Program creates a competitive environment among the participating rental car companies, which benefits the government.  The program includes significant benefits to the government personnel that are not available to the general public.  Some of the benefits are:  Free collision damage waiver...

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Pro’s and Con’s of the E-GOV Travel Service

»Posted by on Dec 18, 2014 in Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

The mandatory implementation of the E-GOV Travel Service (ETS) took place in my agency last year, so we are still somewhat adjusting to the changes of using the ETS.  I’d briefly like to explain some of the positive and negative aspects of using ETS. From what I’ve heard from other colleagues who have been in Government service for a while, it used to take a long time for travelers to be reimbursed after traveling.  Obtaining written approvals for travel was also a cumbersome process.  So an advantage to the ETS is the ability to reimburse travelers in a quick, efficient manner.  This also helps travelers to pay their travel card bills in a timely manner. Another advantage is the portability of the ETS.  Travel documents can be created and approved from...

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Communications “Effective Communicators Become Leaders”

»Posted by on Dec 17, 2014 in Travel Management Centers, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Effective communication is the challenge of all companies large and small.  We pride ourselves these days on our ability to answer an email and hit the response key within minutes of an email coming to us.  How many of us have been asked by a supervisor if we communicated an issue or resolution to our staff that report to us and we stated “Yes” Often I have witnessed a fellow staff member state” I sent an email out to all explaining what to do”.   Probably nothing disturbs me greater then this response for this is has taken the same process that in the last generation we sent a fax out to all offices advising them a change in policy or procedure. My response is do you realize first that each of these frontline agents receive numerous emails, faxes, or...

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The Advantages of One TMC

»Posted by on Dec 16, 2014 in Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

For those states that have a managed travel program, each state puts a different spin on how to contract for a Travel Management Contractor.  Some states will contract separately for an online and a traditional provider.  Some will contract for a single agency and others will contract for multiple.    Some states may have statutes or laws like the federal government where a portion of the contracts is required to be spent with minority or small business. Oregon has had a managed travel program for over 15 years.   The model was patterned after the GSA and has worked well.  One thing that Oregon does is it keeps the number of travel agencies who are authorized to provide contracted air fares, to one.    The State of Oregon partners with the...

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Technology for and against travel

»Posted by on Dec 16, 2014 in Electronic Travel Systems, Industry Postings, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The material in Chapter 5 summarizes the material provided in the previous sections and provides superb guidance on resources available to persons of all roles in the government travel management system. Although the ETS for the government is not as user-friendly as the commercial booking systems, there are many training classes available online and in-person so each person understands how the system works and what their roles entail. Further, the information contained in this, as well as previous chapters, clearly summarizes and delineates what the various regulations concerning travel cover. What may also be added to the material is perhaps information regarding government use of technology in communications. Along with the expansion of technology in travel...

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OMB Circular A-123 and the Government Travel Card

»Posted by on Dec 15, 2014 in Government Traveler Comments, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The United States Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued Circular A-123 that is used to define management responsibilities for internal financial controls in all Federal agencies.  Two of the items addressed in Appendix B of the circular directly relate to government travel credit cards.  The circular requires that agencies pay for Individually Billed Account (IBA) charges using a split travel disbursement and also requires that agencies perform a credit worthiness evaluation for all new travelers that receive a government credit card. Performance of a credit worthiness evaluation only applies to new card applicants and must be performed prior to issuing the card.  To meet this requirement our credit card provider obtains the credit score on all new...

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Getting the Traveler Compliant

»Posted by on Dec 15, 2014 in Airlines, Global Distribution Systems | 0 comments

When the government deregulated the airlines in 1978, it was based on the premise that it would improve the industry and offer travelers more options and better prices.  One area  that seems to be a sticking point is the global distribution system.  For us travel professionals who know there are differences and that every airline has the option to choose what they want to do, we adapt.  It is the occasional or green traveler who suffers the most. One of the challenges I face is travelers feel that they can get a better deal searching themselves on the internet, rather than using the States TMC.  One reoccurring theme is that travelers are unaware that different  pricing models exist between the airlines, the 4 GDS’ and the  internet booking tools and that...

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Per Diem

»Posted by on Dec 14, 2014 in Hotels | 0 comments

General Services Administration (GSA) sets the maximum per diem allowances for travel in the United States (CONUS) established by the county.  GSA updates the CONUS per diem rates on a fiscal year basis. Per Diem rates are approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and published annually. Occasionally adjusted rates are published during the course of the fiscal year.  The per diem rate includes lodging , meals and incidental expenses and apply to all individuals traveling on behalf of the Federal Government.   Incidental expenses include items such as tips for baggage carriers, bell hops, hotel maids, etc.    A committee at the Department of Defense (DOD) sets the maximum per diem allowances for travel in Alaska, Hawaii, the Commonwealth of...

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The E-Travel Service

»Posted by on Dec 13, 2014 in Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

The Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) mandated all government agencies utilize a Travel Management System (TMS) in 2001.  The introduction of electronic travel systems for civilian government agencies was initiated in 2002 by the General Services Administration (GSA) to create an end-to-end travel service to connect travel authorizations, reservations, and the voucher process.  It was initially called the e-Travel Project; and evolved into the present E-Gov Travel Service (ETS). Federal travelers are required to use a Travel Management Service (TMS) and their ETS. In 2003 the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) were published to state in Chapter 301-50:3 that travelers must use the ETS once it becomes available through their TMS.  However, for reasons beyond my...

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Government Car Rental Program

»Posted by on Dec 13, 2014 in Rental Cars | 0 comments

As a frequent government traveler, I have used the Government Car Rental Program many times.  Its ease of use and benefits to the government are similar to the Airline City Pair Program.  I use FedTraveler to process my travel orders and to book my rental car, as well as air transportation and hotel lodging, for my official government trips.  I charge these travel expenses to my government issued charge card.  Since I use the government approved booking channels, I can take advantage of all the benefits specified in the Car Rental Agreements which are not available to the general public.  This allows me to fulfill mission requirements and reduce the overall cost of renting vehicles.  Some of the benefits which I personally appreciate are: free...

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What is PNR????

»Posted by on Dec 12, 2014 in Airlines, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

What is a PNR and do I need one?  In the travel industry, PNR stands for Passenger Name Record.  PNR is a record in the Computer Reservation System (CRS) database that contains your itinerary and other information about you.  If you have traveled by air, then you needed one and was assigned one whether you knew it or not.  PNRs were developed by airlines so they could exchange reservation information since passengers frequently use more than one airline to reach their destination.  In the electronic travel system we use, the travel management center (TMC) creates a PNR in the Global Distribution System when an airline reservation is made.  The PNR contains various information such as the traveler’s name, contact and ticketing details, itinerary, fare...

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Corporatizing or Improving TDY Government Travel Solicitation Processes

»Posted by on Dec 11, 2014 in Contracting for Travel Services, Hotels | 0 comments

Each year, it is my responsibility to solicit all four thousand plus of our hotels for each agency or third party we have relationships with, who have government lodging contracts. The rates must be at or below per diem, must be contracted January 1 through December 31 of program year, are preferably both commissionable and last room available. Also, the hotels offer their own non-contracted government rate that may or may not be at per diem. Although these are pretty simple requirements and standard for all participating properties, they do have challenges that corporatization may improve. First, per diems are issued in early August to be effective October of that year through September of the following year. Since we currently contract January to December, all...

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Data Warehousing Challenges

»Posted by on Dec 11, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining | 0 comments

In reading the Section 4B curriculum, I began to think on the difficulties that TRX, Inc. will experience in trying to gather and consolidate this information.  As a global sales staff member with a major chain (owned, managed, and franchised hotels), I encounter challenges with gathering some of this information for our individual clients for just our hotels.  TRX, Inc. will be trying to reconcile the information from potentially hundreds or thousands of sources. In the hotel realm, the government traveler does not book one set rate category.  As a hotel company, we have a difficult time in tracking which consumed room nights are government travelers as they may have booked with a government contracted travel entity, but the rate may not have been designated...

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US Government Rental Car Program

»Posted by on Dec 10, 2014 in Rental Cars | 0 comments

The Federal Government has a rental car program, which is managed by the Defense Travel Management Office (DTMO).  DTMO has managed this program since October 2007. You may be asking what are the benefits of the U.S. Government rental car program?  One of the most notable benefits is that the collision damage waiver (CDW) insurance is included in the negotiated rate. Besides the attractive rates, other benefits include unlimited mileage, adjusted rates according to size of car and much more. These rental cars can be booked using your E-Gov travel system or using the traditional method by calling your Travel Management Center (TMC).  The rental car reservation is booked and charged to the traveler’s individual Government charge card.   If a traveler does not...

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Transparency in Federal Travel

»Posted by on Dec 8, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

With the U.S. national deficit at its highest, Federal agencies are being tasked to reduce spending at all levels, including Federal travel budgets.  A presidential advisory team recommended a $400 million reduction in the Federal travel budget by 2015.  Federal travel spending is being more closely scrutinized by Congress, the media, and the general public than ever before.  The media and others are sponsoring websites such as junketsleuth.com in order to gather and present Government travel spend data to the public. With all of this attention focused on the Government’s travel spend, agencies are required by regulation to provide requesters with any information they may request (with a few exceptions) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or under...

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Keeping Airlines and Passengers Safe

»Posted by on Dec 7, 2014 in Airlines | 0 comments

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has implemented a Secure Flight Program that requires passengers to provide their name as it appears on their government issued identification when traveling and making airline reservations.  The program has gone further in a second phase by asking passengers to enter their date of birth and gender when making their reservations. Since Secure Flight is a process that goes behind the scenes to match to watch lists this happens before passengers arrive at the airport, current security checkpoint procedures remain the same.  Failure to provide the information could result in delays at check-in. Secure Flight is a key tool in confirming that someone identified as a ‘No Fly’ does not receive a boarding...

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Travel Planning

»Posted by on Dec 6, 2014 in Business Practices, Rental Cars, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Travel planning is one of the most overlooked aspects of the travel process.  No matter what level of travel you are doing this seems to be the area that goes unchecked and can cause the most problems for the traveler. When traveling on temporary duty within the Continental United States (CONUS) your planning can be less extensive compared to the necessary planning for traveling Outside Continental United States (OCONUS). There are basics that do apply to both types of travel, which will now be discussed. In order to make your home more secure, it is important to suspend any newspaper delivery as a large number of papers on your porch alerts people that you are not home. It is also a good idea to have the post office hold your mail. If you have lawn care to...

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Communication

»Posted by on Dec 5, 2014 in Government Traveler Comments, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Too often in the government travel industry the lack of good communication has been a barrier to success.  Breakdown in the admin office, move to the Commercial Travel Office from there migrate to the finance and comptroller’s office.  The answer lies in better communication at all levels so the travelers know that they have received the best from all members of the staff. Travel program managers are here to be fiscally responsible in the use of funds in accordance with the rules and regulations that exist.  None of our manuals or training materials gives ownership to any one individual or group of individuals, we are all here working together to assist the traveler. The question that should always be asked, “How can the communication of those rules and...

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Central Contracting Registration

»Posted by on Dec 5, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Hotels, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

On October 1, 2003 in order for any supplier to be awarded federal government contract it became necessary to be registered on the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) Database.  When this directive was mandated, our national sales team took the initiative to educate our hotel community and assisted them in completing this registration process. Registration on the CCR needs to occur once per year to maintain an active status.  Because having an active CCR standing is now and “absolute” in terms of doing business with the federal government, we have consistently observed that more contracting officers, meeting planners, third parties and other business drivers are insisting on having this information upfront in the solicitation process. Recently, we have...

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Hotel Reporting

»Posted by on Dec 4, 2014 in Hotels | 0 comments

Hotel reporting is still very much in its infancy stages. Much of this is due to the fact that most hotels locations are ‘branded’ rather than owned by the chain. Basically the front room system at a hotel talks to the Brand, so that whether reservations are made thru the 800 number, via the GDS, or hotel direct, you can pull up the information. However, bookings and actual usage of those rooms can be two entirely different scenarios. There are many versions of back room accounting systems in the marketplace, and to further complicate matters there are many different editions of that same account/report system. Thus each hotel is ‘restricted’ in reporting capabilities based upon the dollar amount they are willing to invest in their back...

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ETS Receipt Management Tool

»Posted by on Dec 4, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Payment Methods | 0 comments

On September 22, 2006 the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) was amended to mandate the use of the Receipt Management tool within an Electronic Travel System (ETS).  Within the Per Diem section of the FTR a statement was added, which states that hard copy, receipts should be electronically scanned and submitted with your electronic travel claim when your agency has this capability available with the use of the ETS.  Additionally it is stated that Approving Officials are now required to review the attached electronic receipts during their review/approval process. At our agency, Travelers are responsible for making sure that their receipts are attached correctly and the attachment is legible.  All receipts for air, lodging, rental car, and any single expense greater...

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The Sabre Global Distribution System within our e-Travel System

»Posted by on Dec 3, 2014 in Airlines, Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems | 0 comments

Our E Travel System uses the Sabre Global Distribution System as an integral part of the overall travel system. The GDS is a legacy data based system that is used by all travel suppliers such as airlines, hotels and rental car vendors to automatically book travel. The GDS is separate from the commercial internet booking sites, although some booking sites will use GDS information to offer information to their users and to assist with bookings. Not all airlines and hotels use a Global Distribution System as the GDS charges travel vendors to display inventories. If a supplier uses a GDS, it is the airline carrier, hotel, or rental car company’s responsibility to keep the GDS updated with current information. In some instances some small airlines do not use the GDS...

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FedRooms®

»Posted by on Dec 2, 2014 in Hotels | 0 comments

FedRooms ®is the official government- wide, GSA sponsored lodging program.  The program is compliant with Federal Travel Regulations  and the Federal Emergency Management Agency and available to all federal government and military personnel.   The program was created in 2004 and is currently the largest managed hotel program in the world, offering federal travelers rates at or below per diem with over 7,000 hotels to choose from in prime locations. Additional  benefits  of the program to the travelers include: 4 p.m. or later day-of-arrival cancel policy No early departure fees No minimum stay requirements No reservation deposits No add on fees The FedRooms® program offers benefits to the government and private industry lodging providers.   The...

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Travel Professional Resources – Government Ethics

»Posted by on Dec 2, 2014 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

I found the entire section on Travel Professional Resources of interest and it was very informative. I work with a lot of government groups and learn bits and pieces of what the groups can and cannot do. It was great to go to the Office of Government Ethics website (http://rf-web.tamu.edu/security/SECGuide/Ethics/Intro.htm) myself to see the rules established Standards of conduct that apply to all US government employees. I would suggest every hotelier and meeting Planner visit this site to familiarize themselves with what is acceptable to offer the client and what is definitely not something the US government employee should be requesting. I was really interested in the following topics from the SEC Guide website. Gifts from Outside Sources Gifts can be accepted...

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Centralized Travel Services

»Posted by on Dec 1, 2014 in Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

John Smith works at XYZ agency as an office manager.  Jill Doe works at XYZ agency as well as an auditor.   John and Jill end up sitting next to each other for lunch at a conference their agency sent them both TDY to.  As they get to know each other better the subject of their travel plans comes up.  John says he is staying at the conference hotel paying 150% of the per diem.  Jill states she was not allowed to go over per diem and is staying across town taking a taxi each day.  John says he had to take a contract carrier to the conference and when they compare costs he discovers Jill took a penalty fare that cost half as much.   John says when he gets back he will submit a paper voucher claim but Jill says she will use an automated system.  As they...

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The Importance of Understanding the Master Contract

»Posted by on Nov 30, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Travel Management Centers, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Civilian agencies have placed task orders under the GSA Schedule for their TMCs but, in my experience,  they may often lack an understanding of exactly what is covered in the TMC Master Contract.  This puts agencies at a severe disadvantage when questions do arise since the an agency’s acquisition personnel usually have no familiarity with government travel issues. It has been my experience that acquisition personnel are also not familiar with the details of the Master Contract when they place the Task Order for the agency.  The Task Order is not a complete contract and it does not have many of the specifics that are in the Master Contract.  And of course, the travel teams at various agencies are most familiar only with their own negotiated Task...

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