Travel Professional Resources

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Government Ethics: Gifts with Monetary Value and Frequency Programs

»Posted by on Nov 22, 2014 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

As a hotel industry representative who came to the government market less than two years ago from the corporate industry market, I was surprised at the number of limitations set on client gifts.  Accustomed to giving gifts to corporate clients, inviting them to VIP dinners or banquets, as well as, encouraging the use of our frequency program as an incentive to choosing us over another hotel chain, I am learning the intricacies of what is acceptable and allowed as a gift or giveaway for my new customers and what invitations they are allowed to accept. The introduction to Government Ethics Standards states, “An employee shall not, except pursuant to such reasonable exceptions as are provided by regulation, solicit or accept any gift or other item of monetary...

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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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International Date Line & Per Diem

»Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 in Electronic Travel Systems, Government Traveler Comments, Industry Postings, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 0 comments

Have you ever flown from the United States to Japan? Or how about to Beijing, China? If so, then you have crossed the International Date Line. Now you may be wondering, “What is the International Date Line?” The International Date Line (IDL) is an imaginary line on the surface of the Earth that runs from the North Pole to the South Pole and determines one calendar day from the next. However, the time difference between either sides of the IDL is not always exactly 24 hours because of local time zone variations. While the world is divided into 24 time zones, there has to be a place where there is a difference in days, somewhere the day truly “starts” on the planet. Thus, the 180° line of longitude, exactly one-half way around the planet from...

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GSA and States Need to Partner in Setting Per-diem Rates

»Posted by on Nov 9, 2014 in Hotels, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The 50 states across the United States all adopt some sort of a travel reimbursement program.   A majority of the states adopt the GSA per-diem rate as the benchmark to reimburse travelers.   There are some problems that States with this methodology.   Some properties will only honor the GSA per-diem rates for federal travelers.  The other problem is some properties will not honor per-diem rates at all due to the market being under valued. According to the GSA; getting a per-diem rate adjusted in a market that may be undervalued, can only be requested by a federal travel manager.   This provides a real problem for states that have markets where federal travelers do not travel too.  A prime example is along the Oregon coast.  One city along...

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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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EGov Travel Communication Network

»Posted by on Nov 4, 2014 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Communication and information sharing is very important at all levels within the government.  For decades, government agencies found that they had outgrown the traditional — though still highly effective — information-sharing methods such as conversations around the office water cooler. So how do agencies in several different localities communicate effectively and share essential information with each other, vendors, contractors, and, most importantly, their travelers?  How do you obtain the knowledge from travel subject experts that is extremely valuable —   the knowledge that is in people’s heads? This knowledge may be the most valuable of all because it is frequently more extensive and up-to-date and, therefore, more useful for...

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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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Applying for a Passport

»Posted by on Oct 11, 2014 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

In February 2010, I decided to apply for a passport even though I didn’t have immediate plans to travel internationally.  It has been my dream to travel to a tropical island so I wanted to be prepared in case the opportunity arose.  I stopped by my local post office to pick up the application.  Applications are not only available at post offices but other acceptance facilities or passport agency.   I was told to take the form home with me, fill it out, and then make an appointment with the post office in order to complete the application process.  There are two types of passports to choose from.  I opted for the book because the card cannot be used for international travel by air.  It can only be used to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico,...

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Travel and Government Quarters

»Posted by on Oct 8, 2014 in Hotels, Industry Postings, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 0 comments

Government agencies are faced with reduced budgets in recent years due to the economy. At our agency, employees have been asked to submit suggestions to improve processes and save money during this time of limited resources. Several suggestions have been submitted that relate to Government travel. One suggestion that was submitted was that the agency should require that Government quarters be used because they are much less expensive than commercial lodging. This paper provides an overview of what the regulations state about the requirements to use Government quarters. In accordance with the Department of Defense (DoD) Financial Management Regulation (FMR) Volume 9, Chapter 5, the orders for travelers must specify the actual TDY duty location For example, if a...

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Government Travel Super Saver Fares

»Posted by on Oct 3, 2014 in Airlines, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

My interest in the travel industry began many years ago. My ultimate goal was to find a position within the airline industry. At the time, the industry was going through a tough time so a job with the airlines was not “in the cards” for me. When my circumstances changed and I moved to the Washington, DC area, the opportunity arose for a part-time position with the airlines as a reservations sales agent. I worked for Piedmont/US Airways until the reservations center was closed. I was then employed with United Airlines until I relocated to a different state. This was more of a “fun” job for me; the travel benefit alone at that time was sufficient compensation for me. I was eager to learn everything about the airlines, airline reservation policies and...

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The Changing World of Fed Travel as I See It

»Posted by on Sep 25, 2014 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

As a child, I have always wanted to either fly a plane or work closely in the travel industry.  Throughout my professional career, my role and position has always been in the travel industry.  In the beginning, I worked for Delta Airlines, responsible for shipping air freight, both foreign and domestic, for federal officers.  During that time, I acquired an interest of learning more about the travel industry, as it relates to federal government.  I am amazed at the amount of money that is allowed with moving both federal freight and employees.  Now that I have grown fond of policy and guidance, I feel with my position and skills, it is my responsibility to work hard in developing ideas that work well for both the federal side and the commercial side.  One...

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FedRooms

»Posted by on Sep 7, 2014 in Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Hotels, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Finding hotels that meet government standards and the travelers’ needs has historically been a tedious process for travelers and document preparers alike. Numerous searches would be made to find and compare hotels that were in compliance with per diem rates and travel regulations. In 2004 the General Services Administration (GSA) partnered with Carlson Wagonlit’s Hotel Solutions Group to redesign the government’s lodging program. The program has undergone several significant changes–one of the most obvious is the transition from the legacy program’s name, Federal Premier Lodging Program (FPLP), to the new program name, FedRooms. Additionally, the number of participating properties in the FedRooms program has increased from just over 600 in 2004 to...

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Consistent Resources

»Posted by on Sep 5, 2014 in Industry Postings, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

While the course materials state “It is reassuring, especially when implementing new systems, that a virtually unlimited supply of information is available electronically,” the quality of multiple resources that might overlap in purpose can cause more confusion than clarity if the messages provided conflict, or even if they simply provide the same information using different language. Undoubtedly, intentional obfuscation is not the desire of any program attempting to increase the numbers of people and agencies adopting it. But relying on a variety of involved parties to be responsible for creating and disseminating information pertinent to their respective roles in the travel/purchasing process lends itself to potential misunderstanding. What sources are the...

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The Hotel and Motel Fire Safety Act of 1990

»Posted by on Sep 2, 2014 in Business Practices, Hotels, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Public Law 101-391, also known as The Hotel and Motel Fire Safety Act, requires federal employees to stay in fire-safe lodging facilities.  This is an Act of Congress that was signed by President George H. W. Bush on September 25, 1990.  The main purpose of this Act is to save lives. To be considered fire-safe, lodging facilities must have: hard-wired, single-station smoke detectors in each guestroom in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standard 72; and an automatic sprinkler system, with a sprinkler head in each guest room in compliance with NFPA standards 13 or 13R. Properties three stories or lower in height are exempt from the sprinkler requirement. Over 400 Americans died in hotel fires in the 1970s and 1980s.  Later...

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Communication During A System Migration

»Posted by on Sep 2, 2014 in Electronic Travel Systems, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

A high level of communication is needed for a smooth transition from a traditional Travel Management Center (TMC) environment to an Electronic Travel System (ETS) environment.  People can be very reluctant to change, especially when they’ve used certain processes to complete travel over several years.  There’s usually a bit of anxiety, especially on the part of the traveler.  ETS systems put more of the process in the traveler’s (or travel preparer’s) hands.  While it is a faster process with so many things automated, I’ve seen many travelers who were more comfortable with a manual process of writing up their travel authorization, getting written approval from their manager, and then having their TMC issue the tickets.  Using an ETS system can seem...

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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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Federal Travel Regulations

»Posted by on Aug 26, 2014 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Policies and procedures set forth in the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) insure accountability of taxpayer’s money. The Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) is contained in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) chapters 300-304.  The purpose of the FTR is to interpret policy requirements to insure that official travel is conducted in a responsible, most cost effective manner.  It also strives to communicate the policies in a clear manner to Federal agencies and employees. The FTR sets forth the rules and regulations applicable to employees traveling on behalf of the U.S. Government.  It administers the laws governing travel allowances and entitlements for Federal employees.  The FTR contains information on mode of transportation, per diem, and miscellaneous...

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Roles and Responsibilities in Travel Management

»Posted by on Aug 25, 2014 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Not long after graduating college, I became a travel specialist. At the time I saw it as just a stepping stone to my career that would eventually lead me to a job more closely related to my major.  I now realize that when I started I had no idea how large the travel field was, and all of the parts involved.  I thought it was simply learning how to use the ETS system and being able to read a few regulations, with no regards to the other pieces involved.  It takes a great deal of cooperation from a number of individuals, teams and offices to effectively manage a Government travel management program.  These different components work together in varying degrees.  Some may not work directly at all, yet they indirectly have an affect on the work of others.  These...

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Promoting Efficient Travel Spending

»Posted by on Aug 21, 2014 in Hotels, Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 1 comment

Last year I wrote about the emphasis on reduced travel budgets and gaining cost savings and efficiencies related to Federal Government travel.  Since that time, the Congress and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have further reduced travel funding.  The President signed an Executive Order entitled “Promoting Efficient Spending” dated November 9, 2011 asking agencies to review policies and procedures to find savings and efficiencies related to official travel, and in other areas such as fleet, IT and printing.  The Order calls for reductions of not less than 20% below fiscal year 2010 budget totals, effective by 2013. The Order states: “As they serve taxpayers, executive departments and agencies also must act in a fiscally responsible...

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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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Learning Outside of the Classroom

»Posted by on Jul 21, 2014 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Taking the Certified Government Travel Professional Certification Course is going to introduce you to learning outside the classroom. This is now becoming an easier way for a working adult to either continue their education or in this case start to gain a professional certification in our own industry. In the paragraphs below you will see that there are additional opportunities for you to continue your education or for many, finally have the opportunity to earn a college degree. There was a time that most of us thought that education really only took place in a classroom environment, either at a school or in a conference room. There are some new education alternatives that give you the opportunity to learn a subject or pursue a degree outside of the classroom. One...

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Creating a Travel Policy for Government Contractors

»Posted by on Jul 17, 2014 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

US Government business is often very different from commercial business, largely due to the extensive rules in place to ensure fairness in the award of contracts that use public funds.  Not only is the Government the customer it also acts at the overseer of contracts. Detailed rules on reimbursement are designed to prevent the taxpayer from paying for costs that are against public policy. For Government Contractors the creation of a Travel Policy is not only a resource for cost effective travel it also incorporates laws that must be followed in order to perform travel for the Federal Government.  Two of the most important documents that must be included in the Travel Policy are the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and Federal Travel Regulation (FTR).  These...

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Working within the Government Sector

»Posted by on Jul 12, 2014 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Learning the basics to enable one to function within the government sector is only the tip of the iceberg. Keeping current on regulations and changes is an entirely different matter. To be recognized as a true professional one needs to plot a systematic approach to achieving that end, it doesn’t just happen! Establishing an information pipeline, continuing education, networking, and credibility is what will cause you to grow and become a resource whom others use and on whom others shall depend, as well as, advancing your career within your own organization. Information Pipeline: Certain ‘feeds’ need to be established. Tap into FedBizOpps, register for federal government updates, such as from the GSA Per Diem Committee; subscribe to publications...

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Approving Official’s Responsibilities

»Posted by on Jul 5, 2014 in Business Practices, Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 0 comments

The responsibilities of an Approving Official include a variety of knowledge and understanding in the Federal Travel Regulations. Even though the traveler must also have knowledge of the FTR and agency travel policies to ensure their travel claims are entered correctly within the guidelines of the policies, the ultimate responsibility for verifying expenses are valid and necessary for official business and meet the agency’s mission lies with the approver. Along with the FTR the approver should be knowledgeable of their agency’s inner policies and that their travelers abide by them as well. When reviewing authorizations the Approving Official should make sure the traveler has entered reservations and expenses as any prudent traveler would, in making sure...

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The Responsibilities of the Approving Official

»Posted by on Jun 25, 2014 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The approving official has a very important role in the processing of travel requests.  Approving officials need to complete training on their eGov Travel application. Many agencies offer classroom or online training. Approving officials are setup in routing lists in the eGov Travel application.  There is often more than one approving official in a routing list to allow for unavailability.  The approving official can be an administrator, part of the finance office or required for specific agency business rules.  When a document is routed to the approving official it is their responsibility to review the document in a timely manner. The review of the authorization must be timely by the approving official to allow the traveler to confirm the reservations and...

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The Travel Process

»Posted by on Jun 16, 2014 in Business Practices, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The travel process can be a very complicated process without the proper training. The Bureau of the Public Debt offers training for all agencies in which we perform travel for. Many people are involved each time an individual goes on travel. Everyone involved has a specific duty to perform in order to make the travel process run smoothly. The following is the normal process an individual would follow when traveling for the government. The first step of the travel process is being asked to perform travel. Whatever the need is for the travel, the authorization to travel must be approved by management. Once management has approved the need for travel, they may give specific limitations, exceptions, approvals that pertain to the travel at hand. This information will...

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Government Travel Policy Administration II

»Posted by on Jun 14, 2014 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

My agency offers E-Gov travel reimbursable services to other government agencies as a means for them to more cost effectively provide travel and let’s the agency concentrate on their core mission. In support of this, we offer a travel Help Desk. Initially, our intent was to offer better service administrating E-Gov Travel and travel policy questions for our customers than we felt the vendors could provide, and we were able to accomplish this. (We were used to doing this even before E-Gov Travel). However we have noticed that our Helpdesk has expanded somewhat in the scope of questions being asked. We receive more than just the routing administration questions such as routing lists and group changes. Travelers have questions about finding the correct flights...

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FAR Part 301-52

»Posted by on Jun 10, 2014 in Business Practices, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

In reviewing FAR Part 301-52, which was covered by this chapter, I was interested to find out about the late payment fees required of the Government when a filed voucher is not paid within 30 days. According to this FAR provision, when the Government fails to meet the requisite deadline, it becomes liable for a Prompt Payment Act payment which must be equal to or in excess of what the employee may be charged by the credit card company, or where the employee pays the bill, what he or she would have been charged. Interestingly enough, the language concerning the tax consequences of these payments is far from clear. In this regard, §301-52.22 notes that the payment is not reported as wages, but rather, is “in the nature of interest.” The section goes on...

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FTR: The Blueprint for the Prudent Traveler

»Posted by on May 30, 2014 in Business Practices, Government Traveler Comments, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Working in the travel arena for several years, I have sampled my share of travel vouchers for compliance to the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR). I have seen many vouchers that I felt was just following the public’s perception of government, wasteful spending. I am not required to travel often, but when I do, I do everything within my power to spend as little as possible. I guess you can say I am the “prudent” traveler, but also a taxpayer. I do not look at travel as a way to make a few extra dollars. Unfortunately, I think a lot of individuals take advantage of travel as a way to gain “free money” The FTR is the rules listing the travel guidelines, but I also think they are the reason so many people within government look at travel...

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Travel Professional Resources & Best Government Travel Web Sites

»Posted by on May 24, 2014 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Web access becomes almost universal, and travel one of the most common types of e-commerce, more and more federal employees are turning to computers to help them plan trips, check regulations, and more. GENERAL FEDERAL TRAVEL http://pub.fss.gsa.gov/services/citypairs/citypairs-mid.html The mother lode of information on the government’s low negotiated airline fares, including schedules, fares and more. http://nasdac.faa.gov/internet/fw_search.htm A Federal Aviation Administration page devoted to aviation safety data. From here you can search the National Transportation Safety Board Aviation Accident/Incident Database; the FAA Incident Data System; the Near Midair Collisions System database; NTSB Safety Recommendations to the FAA with FAA responses; and the...

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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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Federal Travel Regulations

»Posted by on May 17, 2014 in Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Post payment auditing is a service we provide to our customers. These audits are performed using the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR). Our goal is to make sure that the travelers are reimbursed in accordance with the FTR. The Post payment auditing that we perform is on the voucher in the E-Gov Travel Service System and our accounting system. We conduct the audits using a Statistical sampling checklist, which is used on each voucher that is sampled. The amount of audits conducted can vary from month to month. This is determined by the number of vouchers that were paid the previous month. The vouchers are reviewed using the Statistical Sampling Checklist, which outlines multiple items to ensure the voucher is in compliance with the FTR. The voucher is...

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Communication is Key

»Posted by on May 16, 2014 in Business Practices, Travel Professional Resources | 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 everyone informed (both internal staff and customers).  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...

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Why Travel Bans Won’t Prevent a Flu Pandemic

»Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

To see this whitepaper, please click on the link below: http://www.cgtp.net/documents/travelpandemic.pdf

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Travel Purpose Identifiers

»Posted by on Apr 14, 2014 in Business Practices, History and Overview, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Federal Government spending is a major topic in the news these days.  Managing resources efficiently and responsibly is among the federal financial manager top priorities. Congressional reporting requirements ensure agencies’ account for their spending activity in fulfillment of their missions.   Focus is frequently on an agency’s travel program.  What types of travel does an agency perform using federal funds?  Is the type of travel and cost necessary to accomplish the agency’s mission?  To answer these questions the federal government needs standardized reporting criteria for all its agencies. In the mid-1970s, the federal government implemented the use of travel purpose identifiers to categorize the types of travel conducted by its...

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Travel Professional Resources

»Posted by on Mar 14, 2014 in History and Overview, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Communication is essential to the success of the Government Travel Professional and its agencies. The Government Travel Professional’s responsibility is to clearly communicate with the agency and its peers of any new updates, transitions, policies, and procedures.  Special attention is placed when a new system is implemented.  In addition, the Government Travel Professional keeps daily communication through phone or e-mail with TMC/CTO.  Communication is transferred in various means in which keeps the government organized while keeping their employees informed. The government ensures all stakeholders are informed of a new system/s. They cover all aspects when a new system will be taking place this is accomplished through the successful communication...

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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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Non-Traditional Travel Companies

»Posted by on Mar 7, 2014 in Industry Postings, Travel Management Centers, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

With so many systems, policies and programs in place, the use of unapproved channels for booking air travel, hotel lodging, or rental cars results in lost data and incomplete reporting. In the private sector, many companies readily admit to not being able to accurately track travel spend and trends due to travelers who either utilized non-traditional travel companies, such as Travelocity or Priceline, or make reservations directly without providing necessary information to identify themselves as part of a negotiated program. Even if they do contact the vendor directly, the vendor providing the service might not be able to assign the correct discount to the traveler because the traveler has not proceeded through proper channels or provided the necessary credentials...

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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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Educating the Traveler

»Posted by on Mar 5, 2014 in Business Practices, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

But why can’t I just buy the ticket on the internet? Do I need to buy the additional insurance? What hotels offer per-diem rates in this city? These are just some of the questions we travel managers face on a daily basis. Getting the best value in travel services is a primary function of our job, but more importantly it is to educate the travelers on how to use the travel program.    We sometimes forget that some travelers may only travel once a year on official business and have either forgotten or have never used the rules and procedures to travel. Developing a web page with frequently asked questions is one great way to educate.  When I first took over travel management for the State nine years ago, my phone would constantly ring with the same...

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Secure Flight and the Impact on ETS

»Posted by on Mar 3, 2014 in Airlines, Electronic Travel Systems, Travel Management Centers, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Secure Flight is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) 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 Secure Flight program added data elements that airlines were not previously collecting. The airlines must transmit the data, no later than 72 hours prior to flight time, to TSA for clearance to issue a boarding pass. If a reservation is made within 72 hours of the flight, the data is transferred at the time the reservation is made.  Secure Flight is intended to improve...

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Federal Travel Regulations

»Posted by on Feb 25, 2014 in Electronic Travel Systems, Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 0 comments

Post payment auditing is a service we provide to our customers. These audits are performed using the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR). Our goal is to make sure that the travelers are reimbursed in accordance with the FTR. The Post payment auditing that we perform is on the voucher in the E-Gov Travel Service System and our accounting system. We conduct the audits using a Statistical sampling checklist, which is used on each voucher that is sampled. The amount of audits conducted can vary from month to month. This is determined by the number of vouchers that were paid the previous month. The vouchers are reviewed using the Statistical Sampling Checklist, which outlines multiple items to ensure the voucher is in compliance with the FTR. The voucher is...

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Credit Cards – Getting A Bad Rap?

»Posted by on Feb 22, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The GSA website provides an interesting perspective on the issue of the misuse of Government Smartpay credit cards. We have all seen stories about Government employees using Smartpay cards to make outrageous purchases, but are these articles the tip of an iceberg of misuse or an abberation? A reading of various FAQs on the site suggests that the credit cards have received a bad rap not because they are widely misused, but because the system readily discloses such misuse, exposing those who try to use the cards for improper purposes. GSA contends that misuse accounts for only a very small percentage of overall use. According to GSA, banks under contract to the Smartpay program must provide an assortment of protections against misuse. Under the program agencies may...

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Going, Going, Gone — Going Green

»Posted by on Feb 17, 2014 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Government Traveler Comments, History and Overview, Industry Postings, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 0 comments

Have you completed a GSA Form 87, SF 1012, or SF1164 lately? If you have traveled for the federal government then you have used these forms for obtaining authorization and reimbursement for official government travel. Even though these forms are still valid today, the forms numbers themselves are not nearly as recallable or visible due to the use of electronic travel systems. Several laws and initiatives over the past decades have been put in place to move the federal government toward a paperless and green environment. All of these initiatives are focused on a common goal of saving the environment and reducing government spending – saving taxpayer dollars – while securing and protecting information. The Government Paperwork Elimination Act (GPEA)...

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Customizing Communication

»Posted by on Feb 14, 2014 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Communication is one of the most important pieces of a successful implementation. Throughout our E-Gov Travel System (ETS) implementation we had to communicate with various stakeholders such as: Executives Customer contacts Approving Officials Travelers / Document Preparers Each group of stakeholders was interested in a very different aspect of the ETS implementation.  We were very fortunate to have executives that had a positive attitude from the beginning of the ETS migration.  The executives mainly wanted to be updated on the overall status of the implementation. The information that we distributed to our customers was focused more on the details of ETS.  The customer contacts need to know the overall effect for their agency but many of the approving...

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Post Payment Audit (Sampling) of Travel Vouchers

»Posted by on Feb 11, 2014 in Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Our division as well as many others, has developed a simple sampling (audit) plan for conducting quality control  reviews in compliance with the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR).  The main objective is to ensure travel and travel payments are in compliance as determined by the FTR.  Our staff will complete a Travel Voucher Statistical Sampling Checklist on each document selected for audit. At the beginning of each month a random selection of documents is made from vouchers paid the previous month.  The Travel Voucher Statistical Sampling Checklist comprised of  multiple tests per document is conducted on each randomly selected document.  The Statistical Checklist is comprised of questions such as:  Were required receipts provided?  Was ticketed...

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National Travel Forum

»Posted by on Feb 9, 2014 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Does your Agency’s Travel Managers attend the National Travel Forum (NTF)?  If not, they should.  As stated on the National Travel Forum’s website “It is the largest and most important government travel event”.  It is the place where you can learn the latest news in government travel, and where you can meet the people who are keeping federal government employees traveling. The four day conference has been held in various cities across the United States every two years since 2000.  General Services Administration (GSA) founded the conference, but it is now managed by National Business Travel Association’s Government Travel Group. There are numerous sessions available, which an attendee can choose to attend.  Some of the government travel programs in...

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Travel Professional Resources

»Posted by on Jan 31, 2014 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The Travel Departments of companies involved in the support to the US Federal Government are subject to Government regulations such as the FAR and FTR; however the interpretation of theses laws is very subjective to the T&E policy of each company.  Government Contractors need to educate their travelers by emulating the government communication process regarding Travel and Ethics training. According to the DCAA Contract Audit Manual, advanced planning for travel should be an integral part of the contractors internal travel policy.  Such planning to combine visits to the same geographical area into a single trip would minimize the use of above standard fares and accommodations  In 1985, legislation revised the costs allowability criteria from reasonable meals...

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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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A Traveler’s Choice

»Posted by on Jan 15, 2014 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The Federal Travel Regulations state that travelers have the right to choose their lodging as long as it is within agency policy.  When the traveler is booking hotel accommodations using the E-Gov electronic travel system (ETS) and has an individually billed government travel card (IBA), the traveler has the option to select the hotel they want to stay in giving first consideration to FedRooms.   However if the lodging is being charged to the Centrally Billed Account (CBA), the traveler may have to stay at an alternate hotel. When lodging is being charged to a non-point of sale CBA, someone within the agency that is authorized to use the CBA would need to place a telephone call to the hotel and reserve a room.  When calling to make a reservation, the only...

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An Evolving Role of a Travel Manager on a Shrinking Travel Budget

»Posted by on Jan 4, 2014 in Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 0 comments

Back in the days, you will say, we are in the airline business, being politically correct now you will have to say, we are in the transportation business. Because transportation – not airline and aircraft – is what the customer buys. The Travel Manager’s role in these specialized environments varies and keeps on evolving. In this day and age, to capture Travel and Expense data will need all the tools to generate reports from the system to assist Travel Managers to understand how travel is purchased and managed. With the right integration of tools, Travel Managers will make important choices of how to use their travel budget wisely. The new age of data aggregation is Travel Manager’s best friend. On my “Seize to Spend” forum paper under Business Data...

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Post-Payment Travel Voucher Audits

»Posted by on Dec 29, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

We perform post-payment travel voucher audits as a service to our customers.  These audits are not punitive in nature, but rather, they are meant to serve as an educational tool so that travelers can avoid making the same mistakes in the future.  A checklist is used when performing the audit, so only items that are on the checklist are of concern.  We audit both the ETS part of the voucher and the accounting system entries.  The ETS part of the voucher is audited to ensure compliance with Federal Travel Regulations (FTR). The first item on the checklist is verifying that required receipts are attached.  This is perhaps one of the most frequently misunderstood parts of the voucher.  Travelers are often unsure whether some expenses require receipts or they...

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Planning a Government Business Trip

»Posted by on Dec 15, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 0 comments

Government travelers within my agency are required to use an electronic travel system to book business trips. The first step a traveler must take after being hired into a position with the government is to provide their direct deposit banking information to the office that will be issuing their travel payments. If required by the agency, the traveler should apply for their government issued credit card before traveling. This information is stored in the traveler’s profile and his/her travel reservations, along with some other expenses, will automatically be charged to their government issued credit card. Based on the automated travel system my agency uses, the first step is to gain access to the travel system by a one-time registration process. A first time...

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The Limits of SmartPay2

»Posted by on Dec 12, 2013 in Business Practices, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The El Dorado of any Government travel manager is having sufficient access to credit card data so that spend patterns can actually be used for trends analysis and proactive planning, as well as detecting potential fraud.  The GSA SmartPay program has improved considerably since SmartPay1 but despite the vastly improved databases now available from many of the SmartPay2 vendors, the same problem with the accessibility of level three data still plagues SmartPay2. Level three data is the information that indicates what product or service was actually provided by a vendor when a credit card is used.  For the purposes of this discussion, I am referring to the travel card. This information is almost always available in an itemized  fashion to the buyer when she...

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The World Wide Web – Your #1 Government Resource

»Posted by on Dec 6, 2013 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The U.S.Government is so large, it’s said one in three people in the United State is a government employee! Trying to do business with the government can be a daunting task. The World Wide web started out as an alternative military communications system, resistant to attack by having multiple redundancies. It’s early development by government and educational intuitions has lead to an enormous amount of information sitting at our fingertips. Every business and person doing business with the government needs to familiar with navigating the web, and more specificly – government on the web. As you travel, my suggestion would be to bookmark websites that are informative, helpful and insightfull to help you research, understand and maximize your business with the...

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Travel Policy and Compliance

»Posted by on Dec 1, 2013 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, History and Overview, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Travel policy for official Government travel is governed by the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) and those areas within the FTR that require/allow agency-specific policies to be instituted.  While travel policy has always been an integral part of the Federal travel process, travel policy became more visible with the advent of the current generation of E-Gov Travel systems, and continues to be very critical and visible as we progress towards the next generation of these systems. This is mainly due to the automated systems forcing travelers and approvers to be more in compliance with the FTR and agency policy. While a step in the right direction, this also seemed to generate even more travel policy questions and was a key factor in reorganizing our travel support...

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The Department of Defense’s Efforts to Reduce Travel Costs

»Posted by on Nov 29, 2013 in Business Practices, Industry Postings, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

In March 2011, the Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum titled, “Track Four Initiative Decision.” The memorandum mandated that “all DoD travel requests must include justification that alternate means such as, Secure Video Teleconference (SVTC) or other web-based communication, are not sufficiently able to accomplish travel objectives.” The Joint Federal Travel Regulations (JFTR) and the Joint Travel Regulations (JTR) were subsequently updated to include this mandate. The regulations require that all DD 1610 forms, Request for Authorization for TDY Travel of DoD Personnel, and other order formats like the Defense Travel System (DTS), include a statement justifying that alternate methods noted in the memorandum are not sufficient to...

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Accounting for Travel

»Posted by on Nov 27, 2013 in Business Practices, Government Traveler Comments, Hotels, Rental Cars, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Many Federal employees will travel or relocate for their jobs at some point in their career.  Travelers are mostly concerned about staying at a preferred hotel and getting a direct flight and may not realize that every travel authorization and voucher is also an accounting entry. In the accounting world, a travel authorization becomes an accounting document called an obligation and has the same accounting impact as a purchase order for goods or services.  The obligation reserves the estimated amount to ensure funds are available when the traveler submits a voucher for payment.  When the voucher is recorded in the financial system, the obligation is reversed and a payment is made. To determine what “pot of money” the traveler is using, the travel documents...

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ETS Implementation

»Posted by on Nov 21, 2013 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

In 1995 my agency purchased the Gelco Travel Manager software and I worked on transitioning our travelers from a paper based manual system to a fully automated one that was hosted in-house.   Almost 10 years after implementing an electronic travel system, the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) were updated to require all government agencies to migrate to one of three ETS systems hosted by the vendor.  During those 10 years with Travel Manager the Bureau I work for began franchising accounting and travel services and we converted our 30 plus customers from a manual travel process to that of an automated one.  During those years, we supported our customers with training and a robust help desk.  In addition, we had developed a strong travel program that revolved...

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Information Exchange

»Posted by on Nov 6, 2013 in Business Practices, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Getting important information out to employees is one of the biggest challenges corporate travel managers face.  Whether it be email, flyers, bulletins, blogs, banners, newsletters, etc, it is difficult to reach a mass audience at once.  The best way for us to communicate important updates in policy or procedures is through our specialty group of administrative assistants called the Travel Guru’s. I meet with over 80 administrative assistants each month to communicate industry updates, policy reminders and changes, incentive programs and procedures.  Occasssionally, I invite preferred vendors to present to the group to keep them abreast of membership offerings and changes pertaining to industry.  I also invite our employee reimbursements group to review some...

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Group Hotel Reservations—A Challenge for ETS

»Posted by on Oct 11, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems, Hotels, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The use of the Fedtraveler online booking engine (OBE) for government travel provides different options regarding mode of travel, hotel reservations and rental car reservations.  The purpose of this paper is to focus on the required use of the hotel OBE for government travel versus the use of a direct or manual process of booking hotel reservations for government travel. For the last 18 months one of my collateral duties has been the first level approving official for government travel for a Region of 26 federal government employees and in that time, I have reviewed and approved dozens of travel plans and expense reports.  The primary focus of the Region I work in is to travel throughout the country one to two weeks out of the month and conduct assessments on...

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Approving Official Responsibilities

»Posted by on Sep 15, 2013 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Many approving officials ask, “What is my responsibility as an approving official?” The answer to this question is that approving officials are to ensure: The claim is properly prepared in accordance with the pertinent regulations and agency procedures; A copy of the authorization for travel is provided; The types of expenses claimed are authorized and allowable expenses; § The amounts claimed are accurate; and The required receipts, statements, justifications, etc. are attached to the travel claim. (Receipts should be attached to vouchers electronically in eTS.) It is also the approving official’s responsibility to: Verify expenses/receipts Acknowledge that the expenses are reasonable/necessary Review the accounting code selected to ensure that the...

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Taking Advantage of New Communication Tools

»Posted by on Jul 21, 2013 in Business Practices, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The necessity for each agency’s Travel Manager to communicate with travelers and other stakeholders has never been greater … in large part due to the number and variety of changes taking place in the federal travel marketplace.   A transition from the E-Gov Travel Service (ETS) to E-Gov Travel Service 2 (ETS2) looms on the horizon for nearly all federal civilian agencies.  A bill has been introduced in Congress to cut the federal travel budget by up to 75%.  Federal telepresence centers are springing up all over the country.  Greenhouse gas emissions are being considered when making travel decisions.  Some airlines (notably, American) are threatening to remove their inventory from one or more of the Global Distribution Systems (GDSs).  Some foreign...

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E Gov Travel – The Transition and Training Process

»Posted by on May 19, 2013 in Airlines, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Hotels, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Beginning in September of 2004, our agency began converting our customers from the legacy travel system to the new E Gov Travel system.  With approximately thirty agencies to convert, we completed the transition within a twelve month time-frame.  Even though this schedule was quite intense, we were able to complete this transition successfully due to the cooperation of everyone involved, the organization of a well thought out project plan, and a detailed training plan. For each customer to convert from the legacy system to the new one, there were two people in our agency assigned to lead each team.  We were responsible for performing all of the background maintenance tasks, such as routing lists, the people table, and security groups. We also trained all...

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The Finances and Legalities of Car Rental Claims

»Posted by on May 13, 2013 in Rental Cars, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

For some reason our agency has had more than its fair share of car accidents while on official orders.  And rarely, all too rarely, are the resulting claims straightforward and clear cut.  When there is a problem on a car rental claim, it is because there is some unusual circumstance surrounding the accident.  Many times what appears to be a reasonable claim under the government car rental agreement is actually a financial claim against the government.  The trick, as I have learned straddling my areas of authority and/or expertise in procurement, finance and travel, is to know when a car rental problem is actually a financial or legal problem. Here’s what I have learned over the last few years.  If you are fortunate the traveler used an approved car...

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Has the Method of Paying for Travel Services Come Full Circle?

»Posted by on May 8, 2013 in Business Practices, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Has the method of paying for travel services come full circle? At issue is how government employees pay for travel expenses while performing their duties. Cash Advances Prior to corporate travel cards, there were travel advances where employees would request a certain dollar amount to pay for expenses while traveling on official state business.  This methodology seemed to work well at the time, but the presence of fraud and abuse always lurked in the background.  There were some control measures put in place to prevent this, and receipts were required to be submitted, along with unused funds being returned.   There were also employee risks involved by sending out an employee with a large amount of cash that could have been easily lost or stolen. Full Credit...

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Passports . . . Are you handicapped too?

»Posted by on Apr 22, 2013 in Government Traveler Comments, Industry Postings, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 0 comments

My husband and I talked about visiting Canada a few years ago to see Niagara Falls, but now we can’t. My sister moved to Australia two years ago and I would love to visit “the land down under”, but I can’t. You may be saying, “Why can’t you? Are you handicapped?”. Well I do have a condition that prevents me from going. I don’t have a passport. However, in a few weeks that’s going to change. I thought getting a passport was going to require a bunch of red tape, but I was wrong. I did have to gather up some information and get some things done, but it was really a simple process. I wish I had done it sooner. I picked up an application form at my local U.S. Post office. The form is called a DS-11: Application For A U.S. Passport and can also be...

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Travel Professional Resources

»Posted by on Mar 10, 2013 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Everybody who is involved in Government travel whether in systems administration, finances, travel consultants, travelers and others have many resources to help them fulfill their jobs. Online training on ETS/DTS  (GDS for travel agents)  for vendors to access appropriate financial codes for travelers, are some resources that can help. Attending seminars and educational programs from professional organizations dealing with Government travel can also be a valuable asset.   Federal Travel regulations and Regulations Integration: Government travel is conducted under various types of regulation laws and rules . Reservations, ticketing and travel activities like hotels, rent a car or Per Diem allowance, have  to comply with either/or Federal Acquisition...

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Government Travel System Support

»Posted by on Feb 7, 2013 in Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Government employees are mandated by the Federal Travel Regulations to use an E-Gov Travel Service when made available by their agency. Most government travelers are familiar with on-line booking engines such as Expedia, Travelocity, etc. when making reservations for personal travel. However, the E-Gov travel systems may not be as user friendly since travel regulations are integrated with the system. Travelers often find that they need assistance when preparing their travel documents in the system and making reservations. At my agency, we provide travel help desk support to other government agencies. This support ranges from assisting travelers with system functionality on a small scale to training infrequent travelers on how to use the system. When appropriate we...

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What about Amtrak?

»Posted by on Jan 7, 2013 in Travel Professional Resources | 1 comment

Amtrak is the only approved DOD rail passenger carrier in the US.  According to the Joint Travel Regulations, rail may be provided only when it meets mission requirements and is most effective mode taking in consideration best value such as time, per diem and miscellaneous expenses.  More and more travelers are forgetting about taking the Amtrak.  Amtrak is always an option when it comes down to the mode of transportation.   Many travelers chose to take the Amtrak if they have a fear of flying. As I understand it, you must have a medical certification stating you have a fear of flying. This fear of flying must be documented in writing by a physician.  Fear of flying “is a huge problem,” says Jerilyn Ross, president of the Anxiety Disorders...

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Are You Ready for a COOP or Pandemic

»Posted by on Nov 11, 2012 in Government Traveler Comments, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Are you ready for a COOP or Pandemic situation?  What about the Swine Flu? Influenza pandemics have occurred every few decades.  Previous pandemics have affected a large number of the population and resulted in numerous deaths.  No one knows when we will be affected by the next pandemic or a COOP event. We have developed a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) to ensure that our Temporary Duty (TDY) and Relocation customers continue to receive services should we experience a disruption to normal operations. Whether it be a major catastrophic event or a software outage, communication is critical. Our TDY area is ready, should we experience a GovTrip outage. Our experienced and knowledgeable travel technicians will work closely with Northrop Grumman to ensure that our...

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The Government Rental Car Program

»Posted by on Aug 19, 2012 in Payment Methods, Rental Cars, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The government’s rental car program has established a successful car agreement with most competitive rental car companies. The agreement lowers the cost of rental cars, offering exclusive special benefits to its employees. Renting a car can be very expensive while causing a burden. Many rental car companies require further identification and documentation just to rent a car for hours or days, with many restrictions. My experience with rental car companies has not been very pleasant.  One major factor contributor to this unpleasant experience is the deposit required, which is extremely high. While traveling on a business trip to Los Angeles last year, I was asked to put down a $250.00 deposit.  This became a burden as I was unprepared for this cost, or if I...

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Post Payment Audit (Sampling) of Travel Vouchers

»Posted by on Aug 7, 2012 in Business Practices, Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 2 comments

Our division as well as many others, has developed a simple sampling (audit) plan for conducting quality control  reviews in compliance with the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR), the ARC Travel Program Guide, and Government Accountability Office (GAO) Guidelines.  The main objective is to ensure travel and travel payments are in compliance as determined by the FTR.  Our staff will complete a Travel Voucher Statistical Sampling Checklist on each document selected for audit. At the beginning of each month a random selection of documents is made from vouchers paid the previous month.  The Travel Voucher Statistical Sampling Checklist comprised of multiple tests per document is conducted on each randomly selected document.  The Statistical Checklist is comprised...

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Consolidation of Travel Policies

»Posted by on Jul 20, 2012 in Business Practices, Industry Postings, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 0 comments

The volume of information presently available from a variety of web-based sources is immeasurable. With hundreds of millions of websites presently in existence, practically any topic imaginable is likely to yield more search results than the person running the query is capable of processing. For example, a simple query for “US government travel policies” using the Bing search engine yielded approximately 407 million results. The same search on Google yielded 875 million results. Regardless of the mass quantities of direct and indirect results to any given search, there remain gaps of knowledge when it comes to government travel policies. Government travelers and travel vendors presently have the ability to easily access rules and regulations as set forth in...

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Understanding the History of Government Travel

»Posted by on Mar 31, 2012 in History and Overview, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

As a travel agent, understanding the history of government travel and how it has affected the importance of adequate travel planning is monumental to a TMC’s success as a government contractor.  Some of the most influential changes to government travel affecting travel agencies have been: 1980, GSA and DoD received authority to contract and test several travel agencies capabilities. October 4th, 1985 DOT issued an order which terminated the antitrust immunity for the airlines to operate SATO, effective April 30th, 1986.  This meant the airlines could not create cooperative pricing agreements, and SATO would operate independently. November 8th, 1985 section 1464 of the DoD Authorization Act, P.L. 99-144, stated free and open competition for government travel...

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How the Federal Travel Regulations Affect Our Agency

»Posted by on Aug 14, 2011 in Business Practices, History and Overview, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The Federal Travel Regulations are an important part of the work we perform in our office on a daily basis.  We provide other agencies with a full service travel help desk in which our personnel is often asked to quote the FTR and clarify any confusion the government traveler may be experiencing while traveling for business purposes. However, in order to answer more complex questions, we have two policy experts within our office who research issues and respond to the traveler in a timely manner. We also perform post-payment audits of travelers’ vouchers on a monthly basis.  We must ensure that travelers are complying with the FTR in areas in which the E Gov travel system isn’t capable of verifying.  For instance, the FTR requires that a traveler...

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Federal Travel Regulations

»Posted by on Aug 7, 2011 in History and Overview, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

All federal employees on official travel are subject to Federal Travel Regulations, more commonly known as the FTR.  These regulations cover nearly every aspect of travel including, but not limited to:  POV mileage, per diem, airfare, and other miscellaneous expenses.  The FTR does not cover every possible scenario, of course, but it does, at the very least, clearly define which expenses are reimbursable.  A good example is the allowance for Meals and Incidentals (M&IE).  Travelers are entitled to 3/4 of the allowance on their first and last days of travel, but are entitled to the full amount on days in between.  Exceptions to this are meals that are provided or if leave is taken.  If any meals are provided, the traveler must note this in their voucher...

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