Contracting for Travel Services

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Spending Cuts and Compliance

»Posted by on Nov 17, 2014 in Contracting for Travel Services, Government Traveler Comments, Industry Postings, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Like Wikipedia, your CGTP Training Course book put in plain words the exact meaning of Government Travel Management = to insure the traveler receives timely approval to take a trip required to accomplish a mission, to take a trip that is planned and reserved accurately and to be reimbursed the amount spent on the trip, all within the travel rules and regulations and available budget. Travel Managers of a federal agency will soon face the balancing act between being in compliance and cutting cost. Due to a very deep cut in federal spending not being felt currently but soon will bring impact before the fiscal year ends, travel managers will focus on cost control as a whole. The top priority ranked in 2012 is generating new airline and ground transportation savings...

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Procurement and Management, the Federal Travel Disconnect

»Posted by on Nov 7, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

When considering travel programs, program management and procurement are both essential.  Once travel is procured, the role of the program manager is to focus on getting the maximum value from any and all negotiated agreements through careful follow up, tracking, and compliance monitoring. In turn, suppliers are more inclined to offer better deals if they believe the corporate client closely tracks usage, trains travelers, and communicates policy in ways that lead to significantly higher compliance levels.  It is the combination of procurement and program management that leads to effective overall travel programs.  In this paper I explore and assess the federal government’s approach to procurement and program management, and offer recommendations to...

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Travel Manager Responsibilities

»Posted by on Oct 18, 2014 in Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, Hotels, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

As stated in the training materials, the role of the travel manager is to facilitate travel in a manner to ensure compliance. In the corporate market, compliance is monitored via a series of reports designed by the travel manager to assess how changes in policy and process effect overall behavior (compliance). Although the federal government has plans to establish similar oversight, the capability from a data standpoint is not yet available. Once the data does become available, the government will not be left without challenges. The most significant remaining challenge is that the roles and responsibilities of travel manager must evolve accordingly. Currently the primary role of federal travel managers is to ensure travelers understand and comply with policy,...

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How To Ensure a Seamless Car Rental When Traveling for Business

»Posted by on Oct 13, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Rental Cars, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

There are many options available to employees when purchasing travel.  Most travelers are aware of policies and procedures, however, vendors may not be aware of certain restrictions and will try to upsell or upgrade amenities to our employees.   When this is accepted by the traveler, they run into cost reimbursable issues when filing expense reports. As an example, car rental companies will try to upsell a traveler by offering additional insurances, GPS systems, larger vehicles, sporty or hybrid models.  All of which are not reimbursed by our organization.  Also, a traveler may not realize they are being charged an additional amount for the vehicle being offered if it happens to be a larger vehicle. What we’ve done to alleviate all the backend hassles of...

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Data Collection and the Importance of Mandates

»Posted by on Oct 12, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

One way to measure the cost savings is through reporting from the TMC.  The collection of data will break down air, car, hotel and credit card spend with Ad Hoc reporting capabilities.  However, a non-mandated travel program makes it difficult to ensure cost savings to the organization. Reporting to Senior Management should reflect true costs associated with your program, unfortunately, as noted, all data may not be captured.   It is important for management to realize the benefits of mandating the use of the TMC and preferred vendors to better leverage discounts for the organization. Some of our greatest savings are obtained by mandating hotel bookings through our program.  As an example, we used to capture 50% of bookings through our on-line booking tool or...

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Travel Management Service

»Posted by on Oct 5, 2014 in Contracting for Travel Services, Industry Postings, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

Federal Travelers are required to use a TMS or risk responsibility of the costs for not using the service.  The TMS is defined in the FTR, Chapter 301, Temporary Duty (TDY) Travel Allowances as, “A service for booking common carrier (e.g., air, rail, and bus confirmations and seat assignments, lodging accommodations, and car rental services; fulfilling (i.e. ticketing) reservations; providing basic management information on those activities; and meeting other requirements as specified in §301-73.106 of this title.  A TMS may include a travel management center…” Society of Government Travel Professionals, Certified Government Travel Professional Training Course, 80 (2007-2010). Also, §301-76.106 says that the TMS must include at a minimum a TMC, CTO, an...

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The Old Days

»Posted by on Sep 23, 2014 in Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, History and Overview | 0 comments

When I started working in travel in 1996, our agency was using the paper method of filing authorizations and vouchers.  Travel planners picked up the phone to make common carrier reservations with a small, dedicated TMC and called hotels directly.  Back in those dinosaur days, we kept a binder with paper copies of the per diem rates for various locations and would have to use those to ensure that travelers claimed the correct rates on their vouchers.  That was before the 75% M & IE allowance for the first and last day of travel.  Travelers actually recorded their beginning and ending time per day on paper.  We calculated per diem based on the number of quarters a person was in travel status.  Let’s say an individual started the first day of travel at...

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City Pair Program

»Posted by on Sep 18, 2014 in Airlines, Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The GSA City Pair program has helped save millions of taxpayer dollars since it’s inception in the early 80’s.   This program allows government employees to travel on negotiated flat airfares in most markets with up to 70% discount on refundable airfares.  Government contractors, however, are not allowed to participate in the CPP with GSA, but can negotiate with airlines on their own. Working for an FFRDC proves to show significant differences between GSA CPP rates and corporate rates.  As airlines continue to struggle to make profit in today’s world due to fuel hikes, competition, union employees, airport fees, mergers, etc., corporate contracts have been revamped to tiered programs which provide small discounts on published airfares with heavy...

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CPP Reviewed

»Posted by on Aug 31, 2014 in Airlines, Contracting for Travel Services, Industry Postings, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The City Pair Program began in 1980, growing from 11 airport/city pair markets with awards of $1.3 million to 4900 pairs with awards estimated at over $2.89 billion. GSAs Airline City Pair Program, http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/105401 (last visited March 31, 2012). “[The] program is for scheduled certificated U.S. airlines to provide passenger transportation services, governmentwide, for approximately 6000 domestic or international airport and City Pairs.” Id. The City Pair Program is touted as being a highly successful venture for both the federal government and participating airline carriers. Id. The CGTP Training Course book also praises the City Pair Program and states that “[t]he government benefits from lower rates, no restrictions and available...

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Travel Transaction Fees

»Posted by on Aug 23, 2014 in Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, Hotels, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

Domestic or international, request assistance or book on-line are all factors of how much a traveler will be charged for their government travel reservations. Government travelers are still struggling with the different fees that appear on their travel documents. First there are the Travel Management (TMC) fees. The TMC fee is charged at the time the ticket is issued for airfare and when the hotel reservation is booked. The rate of the fee is based upon the service that is provided to the traveler. The TMC fee is significantly lower if the traveler books reservations on-line rather than calling an agent for traditional service. Also the fee for international reservations is higher when the traveler requests assistance due to the complexity of the travel. The...

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Travel Management for Government Travelers

»Posted by on Aug 12, 2014 in Contracting for Travel Services | 0 comments

Never in my wildest thoughts would I have imagined how much knowledge, accreditation, reporting, and rule following went into being a travel agent or having a travel agency! I always accepted and expected that commissions were paid to the travel agencies but now to learn that they have been phased out completely is quite shocking.  Granted, transaction fees have taken the place of commissions, but the ways these transaction fees are now calculated makes me wonder how and why travel agencies stay in business. I am beginning to see that travel management for government travelers has had to evolve over the past twenty some years due to major changes and how security also keeps changing. Technology has had a big impact on this evolution. The route to the present...

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Government Travel Management: A Summary

»Posted by on Aug 12, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, History and Overview, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Background: In the old days and before the 1978 Airlines Deregulation Act, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) used to decide the fares between any two cities. They decided which airline flew from/to cities and how much they should charge. Well, the 1978Airline Deregulation Act changed the dynamics and working ways of the airline industry. It allowed airlines to decide where to fly and how much they can charge. Competition was the name of the game. What was the government reaction to the deregulation act? In 1980, the government using the sheer volume of business it controls was able to negotiate and establish “government fares or CITY PAIR PROGRAM”. “Fly America Act” requires the use of US flag carriers or US Code Share flights. These fares were to become...

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FTR Workshop

»Posted by on Aug 10, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, History and Overview, Payment Methods | 0 comments

In January of this year I had the privileged opportunity to attend a FTR Workshop, which was hosted by the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Department of Defense (DOD). GSA & DOD collaboratively enlisted the help of an outside contractor to assist with the task of researching the feasibility of creating a streamlined and updated Federal Travel Regulation draft. Any new draft of the FTR would need to be approved by various high-level government entities, including OMB, and the US Congress on Capitol Hill. During the FTR workshop, the brainstorming sessions became very interesting, as we discussed various possible directions we could take with regards to the FTR. One of the options mentioned (and the most favorable) was to eliminate a lot of the...

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RFPs In the Hotel Industry

»Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Hotels | 0 comments

In the hotel industry I have seen a RFP from a government contractor, trying to secure the government bid but also trying to save their company money for hotel stays, since most of the time they will be coming in and staying weekly or even monthly. When they send out RFP’s then tend to send to several different hotels or even upload it to a RFP process center, where your company can go online and bid on the contracts with the other hoteliers. The contractor is not just looking to better a price but what is offered with that price. “More for the money. Also it states certain items that are required within the RFP. We have many steps for this process. We are signed up with the NECO Navy website that sends daily procurements that have to be filled out by noon and...

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E-Verify and the Travel Industry

»Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Hotels, Travel Management Centers, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

On November 14, 2008, the General Services Administration (GSA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) issued a final rule (73 FR 67651), amending 48 CFR Parts 2, 22, and 52, to change the rules on Employment Eligibility Verification.  These new rules require Government contractors to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government to use the Federal E-Verify system to confirm the immigration status of employees working on Government contracts performed within the United States.  Prior to the effective date of the new regulation, January 15, 2009, the use of the E-Verify system was voluntary. Government contractors, as well as businesses in general, have long been obligated to check...

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Space Age Versus Stone Age

»Posted by on May 10, 2014 in Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

I often think about the Electronic Travel Systems (ETS) that have recently been developed by contractors and implemented by the government, and I can’t help recalling the “not so good-old-days” when the less sophisticated systems ruled this environment.  Consequently, things were much more cumbersome and time consuming. Before today’s technology the tools we were constrained to from a hotel perspective seem primitive.  Although I have never had the prodigious opportunity to utilize the ETS/DTS from an end user vantage, I believe my experience can lend testimony to the giant technological leaps and improved systems we have come to develop and implement in a very short time.  I feel the same holds true in most aspects of business and life. Before global,...

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The Government Hotel Program

»Posted by on May 5, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Hotels, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The government has implemented an excellent hotel program providing great benefits to its agencies while lowering cost to provide the best services to its travelers. Hotels have contracted with the government per diem rates, different types of properties, special amenities and charge cards, special negotiation rates and specialized lodging programs. The travelers have access to great hotels, meeting their needs and beyond. In addition to the great hotel services and amenities the travelers are provided with a convenient payment charge card and/or direct billing to their federal agency. This helps eliminate out of pocket payment.  This is a great advantage as many other public or private companies fail to provide these services to its employees.  For example, I...

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GDS and Contracting

»Posted by on Mar 30, 2014 in Contracting for Travel Services, Global Distribution Systems | 0 comments

I am proud to be working for a travel company that has been around since 1948. This company has been sold several times and the name has changed, however, the one thing that I am proud of is how loyal the employees are. We have employees who have been with the company for more then 15 year and they are dedicated to making and keeping this company #1 in the travel industry. Today we are known as Carlson Wagonlit /SatoTravel and are now the number 1 leader in the travel company. As a meeting planner I do not work with the Global Distribution System (GDS) to book meetings. All our meetings/room blocks for groups are handled thru the National Sales Representatives for each Brand. I do, however, use the GDS to look for hotels near a specific zip code or to check the...

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Travel Agents

»Posted by on Mar 29, 2014 in Contracting for Travel Services | 0 comments

Professionals are an extremely important part of the travel equation! Our world has become a very complicated place and individuals are lucky to be knowledgeable in their own area of expertise much less having to assume responsibilities for their own travel. Yet, employees in both the corporate and government sectors, whether they travel weekly or once a year, are now required to become ‘travel agents’. Today travel agency selection is probably the most important decision made by any individual. The tools-of-the-trade and enhancements are updated daily and training takes place on a scheduled basis, but it takes years to really know the industry! The GDS is just a tool, garbage-in, garbage-out. What counts is knowing how to maneuver within the system...

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The FAR and How It Came About Where It Went

»Posted by on Mar 13, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, History and Overview, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

To understand how the FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulations) came into being you have to remember how our country lived in its earlier years. Those who ran the country were predominately plantation owners, small manufacturers or were involved in shipping. When they needed to buy something they simply went to the source and made the purchase. They may or may not have gotten pricing from several sources, but knew where their dollar went the furthest. Now introduce a new element, the Federal Government Employee. Their basic method of being paid and running an administration was based on the British Colonial model which resembled the British Federal Systems, but with a few changes. Remember that initially being sent to “The Colonies” was not always a reward and...

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Developing Relationships with the Travel Management Center Team

»Posted by on Mar 6, 2014 in Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, Travel Management Centers, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

It is imperative that Travel Administrators develop a good working relationship with their Travel Management Center (TMC) and the E-Gov vendor’s TMC team. As a matter of fact, it is a must.  You will find that it nearly impossible to administer your agency’s travel program without their assistance. My agency has developed a mutual friendship and good working relationship between both parties.  The TMC has been very helpful in assisting us with resolving issues and creating guidance for educational purposes.  The same also applies to the E-Gov vendor’s TMC team. The majority of our travelers were used to using an automated system.  However, the reservation module was new to them, so they experienced quite a few problems in the very beginning.  Of...

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Business Practices

»Posted by on Feb 25, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

The travel manager role, as this chapter mentions, does require great talent in multi-tasking. During implementation, a good project plan is vital to make sure all tasks are accomplished. The travel manager has to ensure all TMC profiles are loaded, lines of accounting are loaded, and that the routing chains for all travelers are established. Charge card information has to be loaded and correct so that tickets are issued timely as a self-service transaction. An organization with thousands of travelers causes this type of workload to grow exponentially. Normally, the travel manager is not only responsible for all the E-Gov Travel tasks, but has to provide policy guidance as well. Although the E-Gov Travel system has automated many aspects of the travel document...

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Implementation of a TMC/CTO Contract

»Posted by on Feb 20, 2014 in Contracting for Travel Services, Industry Postings, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

Once a contract is awarded to a TMC/CTO and the papers are signed by the government contracting and travel company officials, the TMC/CTO has to act relatively quickly to implement the contract, sometimes in just two months with multiple new onsite locations. However, the proposal will provide for the contract implementation process or schedule, from the day the contract is awarded to the official start date of the contract. Usually, a schedule or timeline chart will be submitted for use by the contracting staff and the TMC/CTO to ensure implementation. The TMC/CTO Project Manager or Contract Manager serves as the single point of contact and will organize and oversee all activities, and will report to the Contracting Officer or designee. Implementations of...

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What Is IATA?

»Posted by on Jan 30, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Global Distribution Systems, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

What does having an IATA mean? Do you need one to book a reservation on your own? Do I need to use the DTS to book my reservation? What amenities come with my room? It is not easy to get an IATA number but IATA numbers are basically the Travel agent’s ID number; this is also used to identify individual travel companies so that they will receive a commission check once the person has traveled to the destination.  When you put the IATA number in, it’s not for the discount…it’s so the companies know which travel agent to pay the commission to. To get the travel agency rate, you generally need to get the right rate codes (at least with rental cars & hotels – not sure how airlines interact with the GDS systems since they do not get paid...

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FedRooms

»Posted by on Jan 17, 2014 in Contracting for Travel Services, Global Distribution Systems, History and Overview, Hotels | 0 comments

Working for a Federally Funded Research and Development organization for the last eight years has been a great foundation for understanding government travel and its’ idiosyncrasies.  As I fought my way through JTR language and GSA restrictions, I’ve learned a lot about government travel policy, eligibility and procedures.  Although my organization is not eligible for all government specialties, we must follow many of the GSA and JTR regulations when arranging travel. The downside of not being eligible for many of the special discounts that government travelers are entitled to is our costs are much higher and constantly questioned by auditors.  FFRDC’s and government contractors are no longer eligible for the GSA City Pair Program or car rental programs,...

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Federal Agencies Partner with the Travel Management Center

»Posted by on Dec 31, 2013 in Contracting for Travel Services, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

A professional travel agency, the Travel Management Center (TMC), is the federal agency’s link to the travel industry.  The TMC agent is experienced in the use of the Gobal Distribution Systems (GDS) and is specially trained in the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) to assist the federal traveler. As a partner with E-GovTravel Services (ETS), the TMC facilitates the federal agency in reserving and booking transportation and hotel services in compliance with the FTR. How does the TMC assist in arranging for travel accommodations?  The federal agency and the TMC establish a written agreement or ‘Business Rules’ defining their relationship for reservation assistance, automated and full service. The on-line booking feature of ETS initiates automated...

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Government/Contractor Travel – An Overview

»Posted by on Dec 4, 2013 in Contracting for Travel Services, History and Overview, Industry Postings | 0 comments

As the role of the United States has changed over the last two hundred years, so has government travel.  Government prohibition against the use of travel agents, originally enacted in the late 19th century when civilian government travel was likely mostly over land and agents were representatives of the railroads (one of two main forms of travel at that time), would have to be amended with the emergence of the United States as a world superpower.  Government employees and contractors now need the full services of travel agents and their world-wide connections to service providers.  The influence of the United States now reaches to the farthest points of the globe.  Necessarily this means that the cost of government travel will expand along with that...

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CTO Contracting

»Posted by on Sep 5, 2013 in Contracting for Travel Services, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

Contracting for Travel Services allows the government to solicit for a company under contract with an agency to arrange travel services for Federal employees on official travel, including tickets and transportation, and reservation of accommodations. Until recently what has been the challenge with most agencies contracting for services is getting the same standard of service at all facilities. Most of the Central Travel Office (CTO)’s have provided good customer service, the challenge has been getting the same standard for all CTO’s. Some of the anomalies that existed were the variances across a broad spectrum.  Problem area of customer service included: the number of times the phone would ring before it was answered; how long a caller would be on hold; how...

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TMCs and Contracting

»Posted by on Aug 31, 2013 in Contracting for Travel Services, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

A TMC must understand the entire process of being eligible for the RFP process to obtain a contract and or task order for travel services from any state or federal government institution.  This process starts with being accredited by the Airline Reporting Corporation, ARC, to sell airline tickets and other travel services.  IATA, the International Air Transportation Association also endorses travel agencies and provides an IATA ID card which identifies travel agents as aUSbased travel sales professional.  In addition a TMC must also incorporate standards set by local and state licensing boards in established travel agency principles in order to be competitive and qualify for government contracts. There are two contracting methods used for contracting travel...

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Understanding the Government

»Posted by on Aug 29, 2013 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Contracting for Travel Services, Hotels | 0 comments

One of the most critical factors in determining whether the government market is real business fit for a hotel is contingent on whether there are local government business drivers that exist in that hotel’s competitive set.  In the final analysis, local government customers will steer nearly all the government volume that generates into a specific region. Having a solid understanding of who the local government players are, and further understanding their collective needs are perhaps the most important tactical components of penetrating and properly selling to government clients. In this age of revenue optimization, one question hotels must consider is whether the prevailing per diem for lodging is acceptable?  If the answer is yes, then the hotel is...

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Tracking Travel Expenditures

»Posted by on Jun 5, 2013 in Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

From my experience working with the federal government, they still have difficulty tracking their travel expenditures. “The government presently has very limited capability for management information reporting of its travel usage and spend.” This phrase appeared in the statement of objectives for GSA’s Business Travel Intelligence RFP in 2006. Although the government has the foundational tools (ETS/DTS), vendors (TMC/CTO, SmartPay) and processes (FTR) in place, they still are unable to determine how their money is spent to any degree of specificity. One key reason is that, unlike corporate clients who maintain a single travel agency for all transactions*, GSA allows each agency to contract with individual travel agencies. Having various travel agencies...

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Global Distribution Systems — Information Flow

»Posted by on May 28, 2013 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Global Distribution Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Section 2a discusses Global Distribution Systems. Although I am sure that it must exist somewhere, I have not seen a recent diagram that shows the flow of information throughout a travel transaction. By a travel transaction, I am referring to the following components: Vendors (airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, other) GDS Travel Agencies Traveler (or end user) The data flow used to be rather straightforward, in that the vendor supplied data to the GDS, the GDS to the travel Agency, and the Travel Agency to the traveler. However, through technology and financial tightening there are now myriad other methods for securing travel. Those include: Vendor-direct call centers or websites Alternate GDS (ITA, G2, Farelogix, INS) Corporate Travel Departments, On-line...

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ETS and the FTR

»Posted by on Apr 24, 2013 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

A major benefit of converting to an E-Gov travel system is that the system enforces travelers to comply with the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR).  The FTR governs what expenses the traveler is allowed to claim and what requirements must be met in order to conduct official travel on behalf of the Government.  An agency may also have a travel policy which is stricter than the FTR.  The E-Gov travel system can also be set up to reflect some of the agency’s requirements in addition to the FTR requirements. Pre-audits have been built into the electronic system, which makes the travelers follow the guidelines. The E-Gov travel system has a built-in reservation module, which allows travelers/document preparers to select their airfare reservations.  Travelers...

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Jiminy Cricket Had It Right

»Posted by on Mar 20, 2013 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, History and Overview | 0 comments

As Director of National Sales for Carlson Hotels Worldwide, on an annual basis I am required to comply with our company’s policies on business ethics.  Our leadership team firmly believes that fostering strong and consistent standards here is paramount in terms of creating a successful and trusting culture based on accountability. I agree with this philosophy.  Furthermore, it reminds me of something one of my mentors taught me about business practice in general – He said, “How you get there is just as important as getting there.”  That concept left a deep impression on me, so on certain occasions I would find myself revisiting that same mentor when faced with difficult decisions.  Consequently, he would always tell me the same thing, “I advise...

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There’s No Such Thing as a Magic Bullet

»Posted by on Mar 11, 2013 in Contracting for Travel Services, Global Distribution Systems, Hotels | 0 comments

Open most newspapers and you will probably find that many experts are predicting a bleak economic forecast for 2009 and financial uncertainty.  Due to inevitable declining market conditions, several hotels are now refocusing their efforts and targeting the government market as a primary sales initiative for the upcoming fiscal year. As a national sales director, one of my primary functions is to manage global RFPs for government key accounts on behalf of a hotel community compromised over 1,000 hotels.  Recently, I was in rigorous task of managing RFP negotiations when it occurred to me that hotels in general seemed to be putting too much of an emphasis on program history. In my opinion, this rationale strongly reinforces that educating hotels in terms of how...

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Small Business Utilization Goals, Challenges of Entering the Government Travel Sector for Small Travel Agencies

»Posted by on Mar 10, 2013 in Contracting for Travel Services, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

Federal Agencies are required per contracting law to set aside 23% of their contracting funds for small and small disadvantaged businesses. If the government believes that small business is essential to this country as most of us do agree with this that small business is the backbone of our communities throughout this country. Each week I meet travel agencies that would love to get into the government travel business.  However most are discouraged before they even get started.  They hear the challenges and the difficulty of new entrants in to the market.    For our industry to thrive we must attract new travel companies and a younger generation to become interested in our industry. The federal agencies need to put substance behind the initiatives and not just...

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City Pair Program

»Posted by on Feb 5, 2013 in Airlines, Contracting for Travel Services, Industry Postings | 0 comments

The City Pair Program (CPP) is contracted and administered by the General Services Administration (GSA) for use by all government travelers.  The program was established in 1980 and has helped save taxpayer dollars over the years.  The CPP offers one-way flights so travelers are able to take multiple destination trips. The benefits of using the City Pair Program are, but not limited to: Fully Refundable Tickets No Penalties for Rebooking Prices are in effect for one year Capacity Fares Availability The use of the City Pair Program is mandatory for most government travelers.  However, there are exceptions in which a CPP fare doesn’t have to be used.  If a scheduled flight or space is not available in order to reach a travelers’ destination on time, then...

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Reducing the Cost of Federal Air Travel

»Posted by on Nov 25, 2012 in Airlines, Contracting for Travel Services | 0 comments

The success of GSA’s contract City Pair Program (CPP) is widely acknowledged and well documented.  The CPP has now “expanded … to include 13 carriers in over 5,700 markets.”  GSA estimates that “CPP fares will provide average savings of 68% below full, commercial air fares” and that the program “is projected to provide the Federal Government cost avoidance and potential savings of $6.3 billion in fiscal year 2011.” (1)  While this number is significant on its own, it becomes even more impressive when compared to the $3.4 billion estimated cost for all federal travel in 2006. (2) In order to keep the program’s fares to a minimum, the government has mandated use of CPP fares through the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR).  While there are certain...

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Relocation Travel

»Posted by on Oct 26, 2012 in Contracting for Travel Services | 0 comments

In addition to providing Temporary Duty travel, our office is a Relocation Resource Center and we provide end-to-end relocation services, for both domestic and international, to 29 Federal customers.  We deliver an effective and efficient relocation solution and take advantage of cost sharing. We strive to ensure our customers have a pleasant experience during what can be a very stressful time for the employee and their family. Each relocating employee is assigned a relocation coordinator.  We provide one stop shopping.  Our coordinators counsel the employee from the beginning of the relocation and walk them through each step of the entire process.  Each agency has a customized web page with fill able forms and other information, such as links to the FTR, GSA...

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Contractor’s vs. Government Employees

»Posted by on Oct 7, 2012 in Contracting for Travel Services, History and Overview | 0 comments

Why aren’t I able to use the Government CTO/TMC to booked my rental car and lodging for official travel as a contracted employee? Contractors are NOT Government employees. Therefore, any travel rates offered by transportation carriers, negotiated by the Government for “employees or uniformed personnel” (such as the city-pair air fare contracts negotiated by GSA and the rental car rate agreements negotiated by the (Military) Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC)) for official government business) do NOT apply to contractors or contractors’ employees. (Commercial car or hotel vendors may voluntarily offer-discounted rates for contractors’ employees at their discretion or contractors can even negotiate rates for their employees with...

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Force Majeure

»Posted by on Oct 9, 2011 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Hotels | 0 comments

In today’s economic climate, most hoteliers have a strong sense of urgency in doing more business with the U.S. Federal Government. Perhaps one of the most important factors in accomplishing this is having a comprehensive understanding of how government contracting works.  It goes without saying the federal government has its own set of unique processes and rules.  I have found one consistent, absolute condition always surfaces related to government group contracts, which is something called Force Majeure. Force Majeure is a French term which means “greater force.”  Nearly every government contract and/or letter of intent will have a force majeure clause.  This clause excuses an interested party from liability if some unforeseen event beyond the...

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