Letters to the Editor

Travel costs could increase

I agree with the opposition of the senators as well as your analysis of the social impact [a change to travel regulations] would have ["Don't change travel regs," March 20]. However, after reading the article, I think it is important to realize some of the economic factors that could be impacted by the change.

A look at economic cause and effect would show that if contractors are "free" to look for higher-priced accommodations, and do so above the stated government rate, it would reduce the demand for "moderate accommodations." This would reduce the corresponding supply in many locations.

Without this downward economic pressure by the government to keep rates low, the "average" expense of "moderate accommodations" will increase. The net result could be greater difficulty by government travelers in finding moderate accommodations within the per diem rate in many places throughout the country.

I would also expect an escalation in the average lodging cost over time, thereby increasing the government's program costs for its own travelers. I therefore believe the stated $250 million [in costs for allowing reasonable rates] to be significantly lower than the overall total cost impact on the government following a 10 percent increase in contractor reimbursement.

A related observation and possible counterpoint to my statement above: It has occasioned during some of my government travel, that the accommodation providers will quote the government rate, once they determine a traveler is a government employee, when in fact cheaper rates exist and are quoted for nongovernmental travelers at the same location and for the same time period.

In fact, several times, I have stayed at locations that charged me within per diem when the reservation was made "unofficially", but whose stated "government rate" was higher than that published as the per diem amount.

This seems to indicate either an upward economic pressure at some destinations resulting from the published per diem rate, or conversely, the desire by some providers not to rent to the government traveler, depending upon the locality.

I routinely cross-check for cheaper than "government rate" bookings at acceptable accommodations for locations I travel to.

Name withheld



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