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In thinking about how to improve the government travel system(s) and the amount of work that goes into running and contracting Travel Management Centers / Commercial Travel Offices, it occurs to me that all-in-all, the taxpayer is getting a lot of “bang for their buck”. Government travelers expect and receive travel benefits equal to most commercial travelers, at greatly reduced rates. In some cases, the government’s deal is much better than the commercial equivalent. Where can this be improved upon? What can be done to make it better?
I would make two suggestions. First, find ways to reward travelers to save money. Much of the course has discussed the systems and regulations in place to force compliance and keep costs in line. While “doing the right thing” is assumed as part of public service, the systems do not always promote or encourage this attitude. Programs and systems that reward the traveler work. Look at the loyalty programs run by every major supplier of travel – they get results and create a win-win for the company and the traveler.
Similar programs need to be built in government. It could be running individual travel budgets displayed on the desktop to keep expenses top of mind. Perhaps it’s a point system that figures into annual evaluations. What about a website featuring the best government deals in a city….best hotels, best meals, best transportation option? Any, all and more ideas are being used around the world to help save money and drive compliance with travel programs. Government needs to do more of this as well.
This brings us to my second point. Government needs commercial Travel Managers. In the commercial world the Travel Manager balances the needs of the company to accomplish its work and fiscal goals with the human needs of the traveler. In government, Travel Managers tend to be more concerned with policy compliance. This results in two ways of thinking, “how can we do it better?” vs. “did we do it right?”. Both are needed for a good travel system, but government tends to concentrate on the latter.
The need for this type of position is greater now than ever. The DoD recognized this when they stood up the DTMO. This course is another testament to the growing need. As the electronic systems reduce human interaction (You could actually book a trip across the country, use air, car and hotel, and never talk to another person except to flash an ID!), there needs to be someone looking at the overall picture. Are the organization’s needs being met? Are the travelers safe and happy? Are we doing this efficiently with the taxpayer’s money? Balancing these issues is the role of Travel Managers. Adding these folk to the government’s programs would also bring great change and improvement to the systems.
By Scott Lamb