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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 which an attendee can learn more about are: E-Gov Travel Service (ETS2), GSA’s SmartPay2, GSA’s FedRooms, and many more. Anyone who is new to government travel should be sure to attend the basic Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) session. ETS2 was one of the most desired sessions this year. However, our attendees said that they pretty much already knew what was presented on ETS2. Next year, attendees will more than likely get glimpses of the new ETS2 products.
Besides attending the classes, you are encouraged to visit the exhibit hall. There, you will meet the professionals who are writing the policy, making the reservations, managing the travel programs and etc. It’s the perfect time to do some networking. The year I attended the conference, my agency did not set up a booth. However, every year since, we have had a booth at the conference. Those attending take turns working it. Our customers love to come by and visit with us. We love visiting with them, and we also enjoy meeting new people.
I had the privilege of attending the conference in 2004 with a couple of other people from my agency. That year, the NTF was held in Dallas, TX. At the time, we were in the process of migrating to one of the E-Gov travel systems (ETS1). We were not only converting our agency to one of the new travel systems, but all of our customers as well. We provide travel services to several other government agencies. Therefore, this was a very busy time for us. I learned a lot about the new ETS1 systems at NTF that year. Each provider conducted a demo of their product. I feel the demos of the new E-Gov systems were the highlight of the conference for me. It is hard to believe that was six years ago, and now we are getting ready to migrate to ETS2! I met quite a few people at NTF in 2004. As we all know, those business relationships are valuable. It was nice to meet everyone and find out what role they play in the government travel world. I also thought it was interesting to hear about their processes and to find out what they were focusing on. The speakers during lunch were very informative and interesting. I also enjoyed the activities in the evenings with other attendees. The conference was well worth the time and money.
A co-worker had this to say about this year’s conference: “I thought NTF was a great experience for me. It was the first time I had ever been on an airplane. It was a very exciting trip. I was able to meet many people and listen to many questions that were asked. I didn’t realize how much I really knew until I heard the questions asked. It surprised me that the things we work with everyday, many people from other agencies really do not know/understand very well. Take the FTR, for example, many people didn’t know many of the rules and regulations that we are required to follow. I was able to get a better understanding of other issues in the FTR because of the questions being asked. Most of the sessions were a refresher on things I already knew, but they were very informational. I thought that the format of NTF was very well planned. The speakers at NTF were very good and the location was perfect. All I had to do was take a couple minutes walk from the hotel to the convention center.”
To learn more about NTF or to view the presentations from this year’s conference, you may visit their website at www.nationaltravelforum.org. The dates for the next NTF have been set for June, 2012 in Phoenix, AZ. Don’t miss out on the fun and be sure to get your reservations in early!
by Pamela Morton
“The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect any position of the Government or my agency.”