Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

You May Think You Know How to Save Your Agency Money on Travel

Sergey Nivens/

Intense pressure on federal agencies to reduce costs has been particularly visible in the area of travel. In May 2012, the Office of Management and Budget directed agencies to reduce travel spending by 30 percent from fiscal 2010 levels, which was followed by sequestration in March 2013, and stories of government travel excess. This environment has created arduous challenges for agencies in managing their travel dollars.

Many have reduced travel costs by choosing lower airfares, limiting hotel bookings, reducing or sharing car rentals and, in some cases, canceling trips altogether. What’s surprising, though, is that some federal entities aren’t fully optimizing their travel programs. A bigger concern is that agencies are advising employees to avoid using approved travel management companies and arrange trips directly with airline, car rental and hotel vendors.

On the surface, bypassing these contractors may seem like a simple way to save money. What agencies might not know is that in the long run this approach will likely result in higher costs and more risk.

Teaming with travel management contractors -- whose fees generally represent less than 2 percent of an agency’s overall travel costs -- can help agencies optimize spending, provide better services to their employees and travel managers, boost security on the road and save time.

One big question has been: Can travelers find better rates on their own?

A recent study by Carlson Wagonlit Travel shows that buying services directly from a vendor or booking trips outside an agency’s managed travel program can increase costs by 9 percent to 24 percent. When making arrangements through the approved program, the value of that consolidated buying power is significant, including trip data and information that can save agencies thousands of dollars.

If federal employees fail to use the approved travel programs, the General Services Administration can’t negotiate the best terms and prices, vendors are far less likely to participate and offer discounts, and costs increase. In addition, working directly with airlines, car rental companies and hotels can result in unforeseen booking and change fees.

Many employees may not be aware of the services provided through their travel program. Contracted management companies can help them navigate regulations and policies, such as the Fly America Act, Open Skies agreements, and hotel per diem ceilings. Travel management agreements include customer service and after-hours assistance. In an emergency, for example, representatives can quickly provide information in affected locations and support travelers in distress. A travel website is unlikely to provide the same sort of help.

Making arrangements directly with vendors can take valuable time away from an agency’s core mission. Google research shows the average traveler scans about 22 websites during 9.5 research sessions before booking a trip.

Booking outside the travel program also offers less flexibility for trip cancellations and changes. Employees wouldn’t have access to customer support en route, when last-minute trip changes and transportation problems can generate the most stress. That stress can come at a considerable cost in wasted time and lost productivity.

More than ever, as resource constraints require agencies to make the most of their travel dollars, few can afford to have their employees booking trips outside of a system designed and ready to support their needs -- saving time and money. 

Matt Beatty is president of military and government markets for CWTSatoTravel, a division of Carlson Wagonlit Travel.

(Image via Sergey Nivens/

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.