GSA Conference Scandal Should Not Impact Federal Travel Market, Though Small Business Fair Share Remains an Issue

The General Services Administration (GSA) conference spending scandal will not have an impact on the travel market, according to Arthur Salus, president of both the Society of Government Travel Professionals and Duluth Travel/American Express.

Salus assured GovWin that the conference issue was an “isolated” incident that will not hinder the market at all — and that government travel remains a lucrative field for many small businesses. If anything, he believes the government will be more on top of any travel-related problems. issues. However, Salus does not believe Congress will actually disband the GSA as threatened.

Small Business Hurdles

Small businesses should, however, pay attention to the implications of the GSA scandal. As the American Small Business League pointed out, large business Royal Production Services won an audiovisual contract for the Las Vegas event that should have been reserved for small business. Salus does see this situation as a significant issue for travel agent contractors. Helping small businesses is a buzz phrase in Washington, D.C, he explains, but there is a between trying to do it and doing it right.

Salus notes that many travel contracts originally set-aside for small businesses get re-competed as full-and-open solicitations, even though qualified small businesses did bid. Some contracting officers do not like set-asides, according to Salus, because it is easier to deal with one larger contractor than the five or six contractors that might be working together when dealing with small firms. He also feels the “human element can interfere with the contract,” as some contracting officers have preferences for certain travel agencies.

Notwithstanding the issue of some contracting officers’ reluctance to work with teams, Salus notes that subcontracting is “very imperative for companies trying to break in.” Subcontracting is key to help firms show past performance.

A Key Difference Between GSA Schedules and Other Travel Contracts

Salus states that travel agent contracts come from both the GSA Schedule and procurements posted on FedBizOpps. One key difference is that on GSA Schedules, contractors have to pay a $1.50 per ticket individual franchise fee to GSA. Of course when agencies solicit outsides the schedules, contractors may be able to offer a slightly lower price.

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