The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) submitted testimony to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs urging Congress to take a â€œthoughtful, collaborative approachâ€ together with the hotel industry when considering future actions to rein in spending on government travel.
The associationâ€™s statement was submitted to the Committee for this morningâ€™s hearing, â€œExamining Conference and Travel Spending Across the Federal Government,â€ convened by Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE). Along with the testimony, a letter reiterating this request was submitted to Chairman Carper and Ranking Member Tom Coburn (R-OK), signed by AH&LA and 24 state hotel associations from across the country.
In its testimony, AH&LA agreed with Congress and the Administration that wasteful spending in travel should be addressed. However, the association â€œbelieve[s] a balance needs to be achieved that increases accountability in government spending without the imposition of across-the-board, arbitrary, sequester-like punishment (i.e., budget caps). Further, as is the case with all business travel, legitimate agency meetings and conferences that provide critical face-to-face interaction are essential to the ability of the federal government to effectively and efficiently provide key services to the public. Any policy that indiscriminately limits these meetings only results in additional inefficiencies and higher costs for the American taxpayer."
â€œThe General Services Administration, through its Governmentwide Travel Advisory Committee, has already taken important steps to include the voice of the U.S. lodging industry in the government travel debate,â€ said Katherine Lugar, AH&LA president/CEO. â€œHowever, much work remains to find the appropriate balance between reducing waste and protecting hoteliers and their businesses. We will continue to engage in this important dialogue and work towards solutions that provide proper oversight and better management to permit the continuation of legitimate federal travel. Such an outcome would be a victory for federal workforce productivity, the public, and the hotels that serve valued government customers.â€
The 1.8 million-employee U.S. lodging industry has been a leader of the economic recovery in this country, with 14 straight quarters of growth. However, a May 2012 directive from the Office of Management and Budget requiring that each federal agency reduce travel by 30 percent of FY 2010 levels through FY 2016, along with increased oversight, resulted in widespread cancellations and a reduction of more than $2 billion in federal travel spending. This reduction led to a significant negative impact on the bottom line of hotels and facilities hosting these events.