Posts Tagged "GSA"

E-Travel Price Resistance

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

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

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Embedded vs Accommodated

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

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

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Global Distribution Systems

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

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

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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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Some Thoughts On The GSA Hotel System and Airline Flights

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

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

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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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Per Diem

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

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

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The Advantages of One TMC

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

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

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The E-Travel Service

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

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

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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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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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Travel Industry History

»Posted by on Nov 8, 2014 in History and Overview | 0 comments

In 1948 the Department of Defense had a need to transport Military passengers and cargo more rapidly than by the railroad. The air industry had a desire to become a part of this industry but almost all military passengers traveled by railroad and the railroads enjoyed a preferential passenger traffic arrangement with the government. Although the commercial airlines provided major support to the government during World War II, following the war they were generally used as a last resort for emergency movement of traffic or when a senior officer insisted on using air rather than surface transportation. Airlines were struggling in their attempts to gain entry into this market and made significant headway in 1940. Most of the airlines serving Washington DC created and...

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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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Payment Methods

»Posted by on Oct 8, 2014 in Business Practices, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Late November of this year the Government established a new SmartPay program, which is a primary method of payment for travel.  This new program GSA SmartPay 2, is accompanied with various improvements, enhancements, benefits, and protection for the government agencies and its travelers. The Government partnered with several contractors (financial agencies) to take on this new endeavor. Some of these financial agencies were part of the first SmartPay program and one of its major partners, Bank of America, failed to submit a proposal to continue business with the government. While reading this particular section I was curious of the reason/s why Bank of America decided to depart from this enormous program. Some of the most important improvements established for...

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City Pair Program

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

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

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»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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SmartPay 2 Transition

»Posted by on Sep 5, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

by Cindy Moore The new SmartPay 2 contract was effective November 30, 2008.  Our agency was very much involved in the travel credit card transition.  All card holders were issued new cards under a SmartPay Master Contract administered by the General Services Administration. As a Government travel card holder, I was kept informed of the changes as they occurred in this transition.  Our agency services many other government entities.  Therefore, it was our responsibility to keep them informed of the changes as well.  Guidance was sent to them outlining the changes along with the following step-by-step instructions: The current SP 1 contract expires at 11:59 p.m. on November 29, 2008, at which time the current travel charge card will expire regardless of the...

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Code Share FAQ’s

»Posted by on Aug 30, 2014 in Global Distribution Systems | 0 comments

The implementation of our E Travel System brought about new challenges in understanding the travel industry. One of the first airline practices that we had to identify and share with our travelers was the practice of code sharing. The following is the guidance we created from the list of frequently asked questions we received on our customer service help desk. What is Code sharing? A code share is an agreement between airlines that allows the sale of seats by a partner airline on another airline’s flight as if the flight were its own.  Code shares can provide a cost-effective way for a carrier to enter new markets by using the facilities and operations of a partner carrier. This can be misleading for travelers who believe they have purchased a ticket on...

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The Evolution of Government Travel

»Posted by on Aug 22, 2014 in Airlines, Electronic Travel Systems, History and Overview, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

Twenty years ago I was assigned to the office that was responsible for travel processing.  In 1989 very few employees had computers and most of the work continued to be done as it had been for decades – by paper.   At that time a traveler would work with their secretary to complete a multi-carbon copy travel authorization.  The per diem rates were looked up in a GSA published book and the secretary would complete the estimates after calling the airline and hotel to make reservations.  Once the paper authorization or voucher was completed it was sent to several people for signature and eventually ended up in the Finance Office. Once the Finance Office received the documents, a technician verified the per diem rates and quarter day calculations for first and...

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Travel Payment Methods

»Posted by on Aug 16, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

GSA now has “Smart Pay 2” as its travel card, but it was not the first or even second card to be used by GSA.  While I am not old enough to have first hand knowledge I do have a dinosaur around the house (love you honey) who happened to have used three of the four GSA issued credit cards during his military and government service. The first was Diners Card while it may be one of the oldest credit cards in the world it was not taken in many place within the United States such as fast food places, small chain motels/hotels, and rental moving trucks, which many lower level GSA/military personnel often used to stay within their per diem rate and reimbursable expenses while traveling or relocating for business. However the Diners Card did not have these same...

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FTR Workshop

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

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

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Initial Thoughts on CGTP Course

»Posted by on Jul 23, 2014 in History and Overview | 0 comments

I took the first two modules of the CGTP certification, and it appears to be pretty complete.  I did notice one flaw between the study material and the exam.  The study material indicates that the GSA experimented with its first city-pair program in 1980 with 11 city-pair contract air fares.  The exam asks how many airlines the GSA contracted with in 1980. It almost reads as a trick question to help define the differences between and city-pair and an airline.   As we know, a city-pair is a pairing of cities.   Either the reading material should indicate how many airlines, or the exam question should be written to say how many city-pairs were originally contracted. The first two sections seem to be a 30,000 foot view and what the GSA and Federal...

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Why Federal Travelers Should Not Use a Commercial Internet Site to Book Reservations

»Posted by on Jul 10, 2014 in Business Practices | 0 comments

The prudent person rule in the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) requires travelers to take the same care in incurring travel expenses as they would if they were traveling on personal business.  The FTR mandates the use of the electronic travel system (ETS) for travel reservations and the use of city pair fares for flights.  However, it should be noted that there is a provision within the FTR which allows the traveler an approved exception to either one of these mandates. The City Pair Program (CPP) which was developed by the General Services Administration (GSA) to provide discounted air transportation services to Federal Government travelers with an average savings of 60-69% below commercial air fares.  The CPP is projected to save the Federal Government...

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GSA City Pair Fares and Government Fares

»Posted by on Jul 3, 2014 in Airlines, Government Traveler Comments | 0 comments

There are two types of government fares that our travelers can book in the E Travel System, GSA City Pair Fares and Government fares. In 1980 the General Services Administration (GSA) developed the City Pair Program (CPP) to provide discounted air passenger transportation services to Federal government travelers. In the beginning, this service only covered 11 markets, but has grown to over 5,000 city pairs. The average savings is 63%-77% below commercial full fares. A critical aspect of travel planning is flexibility and the CPP has many features that allow Government travelers all the flexibility possible. Features of the Service include: Non-stop service was awarded on 95% of the markets where non-stop service was offered. Fares are priced on one-way routes,...

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The City Pair Program

»Posted by on Jun 30, 2014 in Airlines | 0 comments

The General Services Administration contracts with airlines for reduced airfares for official government travel. Travelers who are on official travel are required to use these reduced fairs in accordance with the Federal Travel Regulations.  GSA has urbanized a tremendously successful Airline City Pair Program. This service originally covered only 11 markets, but over the last 27 years, it has stretched to over 5,000 city pairs. The airfares offered under this program are discounted considerably off comparable commercial fares–saving the federal government billions of dollars annually. Each year, the General Services Administration awards contracts for air transportation for travelers on official government travel. Contracts are awarded competitively based...

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Reporting Using Simplified ETS

»Posted by on Jun 15, 2014 in Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

Reports, reports, and more reports – every member of management has had a need for a report of some sort at some time or another.  Reports are crucial in today’s business world.  A report can advise management of budget constraints.  A good report also tells management where a company is spending, and maybe even losing, money.   Reports can also indicate how much time was spent on particular jobs/assignments. It is nearly impossible to function without reports. My agency receives many requests from our customers for various reports.  Nearly every day, we receive a new request for information.  In addition to the requests that we receive from our customers, we also receive data calls from the Department and General Services Administration (GSA). ...

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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 The mother lode of information on the government’s low negotiated airline fares, including schedules, fares and more. 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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Some Interesting Questions About GSA’s Best Rate

»Posted by on May 20, 2014 in Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

According to the text, Travel Management Centers (TMCs), applying for the GSA Schedule are expected to offer prices better than those offered their best customer. This raises some interesting questions. Does GSA truly get the best rate? First, were this truly the case, it would be of no advantage for agencies to negotiate non-schedule TMC arrangements. They presumably could not get a better rate and presumably the $1.50 transaction fee is not enough to make the issuance of a Request for Proposals (RFP) and competition, an expensive process, a profitable alternative. Why than would an agency choose to run its own competition? Is it solely to add additional requirements not available under the schedule? Does GSA require that TMCs on the schedule offer services in...

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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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The General Services Administration E-Travel Project

»Posted by on May 6, 2014 in Global Distribution Systems | 0 comments

Two of the best decisions made by the General Services Administration, when developing and implementing a customized on-line Electronic Travel System for their civilian agencies, were to award the E-Travel contracts to more than one vendor, and to work closely with the Department of Defense to learn from their ‘experiences’. When the GDS were first introduced to the public by American Airlines (Sabre) and United Airlines (Apollo) in the 70′s, it was a very basic reservation system. In fact, often times, the determining factor of which product a customer finally chose was the air carrier that had the majority of lift out of the airports from which the agency served its customers, since the agency only had last seat availability to offer their...

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GSA City Pair Fare

»Posted by on May 1, 2014 in Airlines | 0 comments

The airline industry has seen many changes in the past few years.  For government travelers the most significant change occurred in 1980 with the implementation of the City Pair Program (CPP).  Governed by the General Services Administration (GSA), CPP started out with 11 city pairs but has now expanded to over 5,000 city pairs for both domestic and international locations.  The program offers competitive rates which saves the government an average of 50% to 70% off unrestricted coach fares. Government travelers, following the requirements set forth in the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR), must use a contract fare when available unless the traveler has a valid justification.  Some of the justifications are: There are no seats available on a contract...

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City Pair Fares and GSA Statistics

»Posted by on Apr 26, 2014 in Airlines, Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems | 1 comment

There is a statistic cited in the training materials that I find interesting, which is that City Pair air fares save 50 – 70% off unrestricted coach fares. I have seen a similar measure of 72% savings off unrestricted coach fares published directly by GSA. This measure raises two questions: 1)    What data did GSA use to determine this measure and when was the analysis conducted? 2)     Is a better measure of program savings available? Section 2a discusses yield management tools and how airfare prices change continuously. To accurately measure savings off unrestricted coach fares, GSA would need a database of unrestricted coach fares that were purchased at the same their traveler purchased the ticket to the same destination. A second option would be to...

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E-Gov Travel Partnerships

»Posted by on Mar 22, 2014 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

E-Gov Travel is a Government-wide initiative that is mandated by the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) for all federal travelers and is one of 24 E-Gov initiatives outlined in the President’s Management Agenda (PMA). The E-Gov Travel vision is to deliver a unified, simplified service that delivers a cost-effective travel experience, supports excellent management and results in superior customer satisfaction. The E-Gov Travel goals are defined as follows: develop a government-wide, web based, world-class travel management service; establish a cost model that reduces or eliminates capital investment and minimizes total cost per transaction for the government; and create a policy environment based on the use of best travel management policies. The E-Gov Travel...

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eGov Travel System Featuring GovTrip

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

There are three choices when an agency selects an eGov Travel System.  The choices are; Carlson Wagonlit Government Travel’s E2Solutions, EDS’s Fed Traveler and Northrop Grumman Mission System’s GovTrip. All of the eGov Travel Systems meet the minimum requirements which were defined by General Services Administration (GSA), who awarded the contract.  This article will be referencing GovTrip. GovTrip forces the  travelers to comply with the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR).  The FTR governs the expenses the traveler is allowed to claim and the requirements which must be met in order to conduct official travel on behalf of the Government.  An agency can have travel policy which is stricter than the FTR.  GovTrip can be set up to reflect some...

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Business Practices

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

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

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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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SmartPay 2

»Posted by on Feb 6, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

Smartpay 2 is the next generation of the Government charge card program put forward by the General Services Administration’s master contract. Smartpay 2 offers the added functionality for the agencies to choose an integrated Government charge card. This allows Federal employees to have the ability to charge purchase card transactions, travel card transactions, and even fleet card transactions on one individually issued plastic card. Another functionality that is not widely in use is the ability to centrally bill travel transactions. Our agency has taken advantage of both of these functionalities since the first Smartpay contract and they have worked so well; this white paper aims to explain more about these benefits so others can consider and take advantage if...

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

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

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TMC Selection

»Posted by on Dec 29, 2013 in Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

My government agency not only uses the imbedded TMC in E-Gov Travel, we also use an accommodated TMC.  In addition, we also have a task order on the GSA TSS Schedule (Travel Services Solutions) with a TMC that is used apart from E-Gov Travel for telephone reservations only. We have a mechanism to still prepare the authorizations and vouchers for travel in our E-Gov Travel system and record the transportation expense. We are glad that our chosen E-Gov Travel vendor recently allowed more TMCs to participate in E-Gov Travel. Prior to E-Gov Travel, we created our own independent contract for travel management services, since the existing GSA contract was non-mandatory. One thing the travelers find cumbersome is the fee process. It’s difficult for the...

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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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Waste in Travel Expenditures

»Posted by on Sep 13, 2013 in History and Overview | 0 comments

As a Government worker, I would like to respond to aka1979′s posting. Let me start by saying that I agree that $2.5 billion dollars is a lot of money. However, the Federal Government is very large and performs a lot of functions. This figure covers subsistence expenses for both civilian and military employees. It would be interesting to know how many trips by how many employees are included in this figure. The Government does a lot of training on-line and does training and performs functions using teleconferencing. It is my experience that most large facilities have teleconferencing capabilities and use them. Aka1979, seems to presume that all or most of this travel is for training, but this is not the case. While some travel is for training or to attend...

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FedRooms Adoption

»Posted by on Jun 27, 2013 in Hotels | 0 comments

Before E-Gov Travel when I went on a trip the first thing I would do is to decide on what hotel I wanted to stay in.  I did this in various ways such as internet searches, past experiences or referrals.  My normal destination is to DC so I would try to find a hotel that was either close to the location I was traveling to or at least close to a metro stop.  Once a decision was made, I called the hotel and asked for the Government rate, which many times exceeded per diem.  Even after calling several hotels there were times I could not find any hotels that offered a rate at or below per diem and I ended up having to request reimbursement for actual expenses on my lodging. When our agency moved to a eTS and required that we book Fedrooms hotels when possible, many...

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Tracking Travel Expenditures

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

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

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ETS and the FTR

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

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

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DTS, ETS & FedRooms

»Posted by on Nov 2, 2012 in Electronic Travel Systems, Hotels, Payment Methods | 2 comments

The federal government has taken on monumental tasks implementing the DTS system and ETS systems, and I commend DoD and GSA for their actions. Surprisingly, although the systems have been in place for many years now, my experience has been that neither group has been able to obtain the type of management reports necessary to effectively alter traveler behavior or leverage their purchasing power during negotiations. As a simple example, let’s take the FedRooms program. Currently DoD does not participate in the program. Therefore the FedRooms rates, according to GSA’s FedRooms manager, are not even loaded into the DTS system for display to DoD travelers. On the ETS side of the house, while FedRooms rates (XVU code) are displayed, they are displayed with up to 20...

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Travel Management Center History

»Posted by on Oct 16, 2012 in Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

Travel Management has grown with leaps and bounds.  It has grown from a struggling infant to a fully automated system capable of providing all your travel and travel payment needs. 1989 a survey conducted by American Express shows that corporate travel management is a career opportunity. 1993 the Clinton administration thought it could eliminate the entire White House travel office staff and replace it with a cousin of the president and the help of a midsized travel agency in Little Rock. Hal Rosenbluth of Rosenbluth International proclaims time is right for the automation of travel management. 2001, Sato began specializing in providing travel management services to government agencies. 2002 “The ETravel initiative was one of President Bush’s 24...

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Data Collection Under the TRX MIS Contract: Implementation, Deployment, and Strategic Sourcing Issues

»Posted by on Apr 18, 2012 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems | 0 comments

The GSA (General Services Administration) often enters into City-Pairs negotiations hampered by a relative lack of hard data on Government travel.  Where substantive data has been available it has not been as detailed or as encompassing as the Government requires to effectively support negotiations.  This lack of effective data caused the Travel Program management Office (PMO) of the GSA to conduct an Full and Open competition for a vendor that could provide services to make up for this lack of information.  The solicitation requirement was to obtain the best travel data aggregation and reporting solution that satisfied government requirements at the best value.  A trade-off analysis was performed between technical and cost and past performance to make the...

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»Posted by on Dec 16, 2011 in Electronic Travel Systems, Government Traveler Comments | 0 comments

In 2003, the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) amendment 2003-07, FTR Case 2003-303, E-Gov Travel Service, was published in the Federal Register. This rule requires agency-wide use of the eTravel Service now known as E-Gov Travel” The proposed amendment to the Federal Travel Regulation requiring executive branch agencies to begin implementing the ETS no later than December 31, 2004 with complete agency-wide migration no later than September 30, 2006. According to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA): “The E-Gov Travel Service (ETS) is government-wide, web-based, world-class travel management service. It was launched in April 2002 to save significantly on costs and improve employee productivity.” Well stated, so why does my agency not use the E-Gov...

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