Travel for meetings and conferences is crucial to making government more efficient and effective, according to a new U.S. Travel Association study.
The study also found that cancelling meetings and prohibiting government employees from participating in key events, undermines important government functions.
“The Value of Government Meetings” report, conducted by Rockport Analytics, is the first study to evaluate the impact of sweeping cuts in federal and state government travel budgets on the public and private sector, the association said.
The value of travel
The study is part of USTA’s Travel Effect campaign, which employs research to prove the “economic, societal, business and personal benefits of travel.”
Erik Hansen, USTA’s director of domestic policy, said he was surprised by some of the study’s findings.
“One of the most important findings is that while there is this perception that government travel and meetings are a boondoggle, government is actually more efficient and cost effective than the private sector,” Hansen said.
Another major finding involved “replacement costs,” Hansen noted. When a government meeting is cancelled or simply not held, the goals of the meeting need to be met with less efficient and cost-effective individual travel.
More efficient than private-sector meetings
Among the report’s other findings:
• Government meetings are more efficient than private sector meetings – 2011 spending on government meetings and events was significantly lower than that of the private sector – an average of $173 per delegate per day, compared to $339 for the private sector.
• Private sector meetings are more productive when government employees participate – Nearly three-quarters, 74%, of private-sector executives said that having government employees at meetings and events added value.
• Meetings make government more effective and benefit citizens – A majority of government supervisors, 89%, believe government meetings and events benefit citizens. Eighty-five percent of government respondents agreed that meetings and events add value to employee development and training.
• Cancelling government participation in conferences increases taxpayer costs in the long run – The savings and efficiencies of bringing the public and private sector together are lost when conference attendance is cancelled. That leads to numerous duplicate meetings resulting in a greater net cost.
• Government travel has a broad economic impact – In 2011 government meetings travel had an economic impact of $24.4 billion, supported 343,800 jobs and $14.5 billion in wages, and contributed $5.5 billion in tax revenues.
"We hope these new findings will encourage congressional leaders to re-evaluate proposals to drastically cut government travel budgets across the country," said Roger Dow, USTA president and CEO.
"When conducted responsibly, federal workers who travel for conferences and meetings deliver important services and real value to our nation,” he said.