Travel Industry to Respond to GSA Scandal at D.C. Summit
The travel industry will have an opportunity to respond in force to the recent GSA meetings scandal, during the upcoming Grassroots Congressional Travel Summit, May 8 to 10. Thirteen major industry organizations plan to participate.
The GSA meetings mania is not on the official agenda, but issues surrounding the GSA’s highly publicized Las Vegas conference in 2010 are likely to come up when travel industry professionals call on Capitol Hill, said Steve Richer, NTA’s public relations advocate in Washington, D.C.
NTA is one of several groups organizing the Congressional Travel Summit, at which 50 to 60 industry members will be updated on issues and legislation, before meeting with their elected officials.
Value to the economy
The travel industry is on the right side of the GSA meetings issue, Richer said. The trade’s message to legislators and government agencies in May should continue to drum home that travel and tourism, including meetings, are a major economic force in the U.S.
Indeed, in an Executive Order last November, the Obama Administration called business travel “important” for government operations, though it also advocated controlling travel costs.
The order made no mention, however, of using travel professionals to arrange travel and plan conferences as a way to control costs.
The order stated that business travel “is important to the effective functioning of Government and certain activities can be performed only by traveling to a different location.”
The administration instructed government agencies to “devise strategic alternatives to Government travel, including local or technological alternatives, such as teleconferencing and video conferencing.”
It also instructed government agencies to use “space controlled by the Federal Government, wherever practicable and cost effective” for both business appointments and conferences.
Use of travel professionals
The GSA’s Las Vegas meeting, which has sparked outrage over excessive spending, apparently did not involve a travel professional – neither a meeting planner nor a travel manager.
“In the case of GSA, we are looking at appointees rather than trained professionals,” said Charles Sadler, executive director and CEO of the Society of Government Meeting Professionals. “We’ve always advocated for professionally trained planners,” he added.
There is a solution that would avoid repeats of the GSA scandal, Sadler told Travel Market Report. “The solution is to create a standard policy and to make sure there is a professionally trained planner on the team at each agency."
Harvey Chipkin contributed to this report.