Civilian Govt. Travel Has Big Potential for Agents
The $5 billion government civilian travel market is a great source of potential revenue for agents, particularly those with small business travel agencies.
This has been the experience of Arthur Salus, president of Society of Government Travel Professionals (SGTP), whose Duluth Travel/American Express in Atlanta is both a prime government travel contractor and a subcontractor.
Salus spoke about the government travel market with Travel Market Report.
What's the potential of government travel for small agents today?
Salus: Government travel is a $15 billion market. That includes $5 billion to $6 billion in civilian travel, which is what travel agencies serve.
It has a great potential, but travel agents have to go out and get the business.
I started to go after this business in 2005 and testified to Congress on behalf of small business travel agents. I networked around the Hill – wrote 42 letters and visited members of Congress until I got someone to listen. That was the Chairman of House Small Business Committee. That really started it for me and for other small business travel agencies.
What are the first steps for agents who want to go after government travel?
Salus: The first thing they have to do is be on the GSA Schedule. The GSA Schedule is their buying platform, and agents have to be approved by the government before the government can contract for their services.
Has it become more or less difficult for smaller agencies to land a government contract under the Obama Administration’s Small Business Initiative?
Salus: There is a big push for small business and the results are there from the Executive Order in 2010 establishing the Small Business Initiative. (Editor’s note: Congress mandates that 23% of federal contracts be set aside for small business.)
But it takes time because, as anywhere else, government bureaucrats tend to take the path of least resistance, and that is dealing with people they are used to.
Why is government travel worth it for small agencies? Isn't it a huge hassle?
Salus: It is worth the effort for small agencies because you have five-year contracts with one-year renewals.
And government travel is recession-proof – different from the corporate world. The government travels regardless. For example, even though the administration asked that government agencies cut travel budgets by 10%, Veterans Administration travel is up 14% this year.
Aren’t agents intimidated by government travel?
Salus: I don’t think travel agents should be intimidated by government travel. There may be some paperwork involved, but it is nothing like what you encounter when you are closing on a house.
It really is not difficult, and the GSA is on a fast track in awarding GSA Schedule contracts – they do it within weeks.