Government Connections - Fall 2012 - (Page 18)

GOOD TO KNOW GSA Tools Saving Time and Money By Amy M. DeSalme GOVERNMENT MEETING PLANNERS and members of the hospitality industry are breathing a collective sigh of relief. In the wake of the now infamous General Services Administration (GSA) conference scandal that broke last April, along with President Obama’s call on federal agencies to reduce their travel budgets by 30%, it was feared that there would be major cuts to the per diem rates. Fortunately, GSA, which sets the rates for per diem for all federal travel, announced this August that it was freezing the 2013 per diem rates at the 2012 levels. This came as a welcome announcement, to both the spectrum of venues that rely on government meeting business and the professionals within the meetings industry. Potential cuts to the per diem rates could have devastated the government meeting industry, and the local economies that are dependent upon it. Just as corporate meetings were put under the microscope after AIG hosted a conference at the St. Regis Resort shortly after the company received a bailout worth billions of dollars, government meeting planners are now feeling the pressure of new regulations and even tighter restrictions. Government meeting planners already struggle to provide their attendees with high-quality meetings on ever-tightening budgets, despite the rising cost of lodging. At the same time, hoteliers are facing rising food and energy costs. Therein lies the dilemma. There is help! There are tools available for government meeting planners to utilize that will help them to follow the per diem guidelines. The GSA website offers meeting planners, often who are charged with planning their department’s meetings along with many other duties, an array of tools that can help to plan 18 GOVERNMENT CONNECTIONS | FALL 2012 successful events more efficiently – saving both time and money. The first tool that planners can utilize is the GSA Travel Management I n for m at ion S er v ice Group Tr avel Planning Tool (“M.I.S.”). This tool allows a meeting professional to compare the costs associated with hosting a conference in up to 10 potential cities. Factored in are airfare and mileage rates, per diem rates, and car rental agreements in each of the participating locations. This tool will help you to determine which city provides your department with the best return on investment value for your meeting. After the MIS has helped you to determine which city would be best suited for your meeting, a second tool found on the GSA website is FedRooms. This program allows a meeting planning professional to choose from multiple hotel and convention properties in a particular city. Users input their specific venue requirements by filling out a detailed checklist. Market research within this system is gat hered a nd prov ide s highly useful informat ion about hotel s t h at best meet those needs. The hotel properties that are listed in this system offer rates that either meet or beat the federal per diem rates. FedRooms provides a side-by-side comparison of amenities and cost estimates. Not only are cost estimates provided, but also each property’s special concessions (such as complimentary sleeping rooms or meeting space). If the meeting planner finds a specific venue to be satisfactory, their contact information is then sent to the hotel manager. Per diem is a vital component to keeping gover nment meetings cost-effective. While it may sometimes seem that these rates are restrictive, by utilizing the industry tools and market research available, meeting planners can determine what destinations can offer the best value and provide reasoning for the total estimated costs of their events.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Government Connections - Fall 2012

President’s Letter
Editor’s Letter
Going Places
Dieting on a Per Diem
Plan Green
Education Edge
Demonstrate the Value of Your Meeting
Good to Know
Supplier Strategy
That’s Technology
Conference Connection
Freeze of Per Diem Rates is not a Hotel Freeze out for Government Business
Membership News
Travel Tips & Trends
Continuing Education Now Includes New ADA Rules
SGMP Nation
Advertisers’ Index
The Meeting Minute

Government Connections - Fall 2012