To the Editor:
Standing shoulder-to-shoulder in defending the value of government travel, our industry successfully avoided a potentially devastating policy change when the U.S. General Services Administration announced it would not alter its method for calculating lodging per diems, which could have cost the industry $885 million in revenue and thousands of American jobs. ??
Thanks to the joint advocacy efforts of travel industry associations, local hotel owners, national lodging chains, destination marketing organizations and many others, we were able to defend against a policy proposal that would have cut federal lodging per diem rates by roughly 30 percent.
The GSA was considering this drastic change as part of a government-wide initiative to reduce federal conference and travel spending. Instead, the GSA decided to freeze lodging per diem rates at current levels for the upcoming fiscal year.
This decision was reached because so many industry leaders sent a clear message that travel is an essential tool for the government and critical to local economies. Working with the American Hotel & Lodging Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among others, we successfully generated dozens of letters from leaders on Capitol Hill and met repeatedly on this issue with members of the administration to support this issue.
State travel associations and destination marketing organizations from across the nation hosted roundtables with government officials to discuss the importance of federal travel.
In the end, our message was heard loud and clear. ??
We should be thankful to the GSA, travel leaders in Congress and the President Barack Obama administration for continuing to work collaboratively with our industry, and for their recognition of the importance of travel.
Given the negative media attention surrounding federal conferences, a contentious political environment and a shrinking federal budget, a freeze in the per diem rates is a sensible policy decision that minimizes economic impact on the travel industry and protects taxpayer dollars during these tight fiscal times. ??
There are still difficult challenges ahead.
Federal agencies face 30 percent cuts to their travel budgets and government conferences remain under intense scrutiny.
But the per diem debate provides a valuable lesson on what we can accomplish when we speak with one voice.
From streamlined visa policies, to improvements in aviation, to developing smart and responsible government travel practices, the unified voice of our industry is being heard as never before in Washington, D.C. ??
I will keep you informed of further developments.
Roger J. Dow ?
president and CEO
Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau