GovTravels Symposium Focuses on New Travel Realities

Mar 2, 2021 | DTJ Online

The significant changes and challenges to government travel and the travel sector over the last year were at the center of discussion during NDTA’s 2021 GovTravels Symposium. The symposium, which was co-sponsored for the fifth year by the Defense Travel Management Office (DTMO), is an annual gathering of US Government and industry travel experts. GovTravels focuses on government-wide travel programs and travel policy, providing professional development and networking opportunities for all participants. Held virtually February 23-25, the theme of this year’s event was “Respond, Adapt, Innovate—the Changing World of Government Travel.

“This is a diverse and talented group of professionals who are enthusiastic about seeing travel get back to normal,” said NDTA President and CEO VADM William “Andy” Brown, USN (Ret.), who served as the master of ceremonies. “Our stated goal over the next three days of GovTravels is simple: To promote communication among all stakeholders, government and private sector, whose job it is to support the safe and efficient travel of our government travelers.

“Requirements, needs, capabilities, policies, trends, issues, innovations—you will be exposed to all of these over the next few days as we talk about the future of government travel. These discussions are obviously more important than ever as we learn to cope with new travel realities.”

During the opening remarks, DTMO Director, Mr. William “Bill” Mansell, Jr., SES, commented, “Year after year we experience first-hand the value that this event brings, the relationships that we build and strengthen, the ideas that are exchanged and integrated, and we walk away with a better understanding of what is happening across the travel landscape. Hosting this event in a virtual environment is a little different for all of us, I’m sure, but I fully expect that this year’s program will continue its tradition of excellence and stakeholder engagement.”

The previous year’s symposium was held as the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading worldwide, and just before shutdowns and quarantines occurred in the US. “It was at GovTravels last year that I began to answer the mail on the impact of DOD travel as the Department of State began issuing level-four travel advisories, countries began closing borders, and the Secretary of Defense weighed a stop movement order,” said Mansell.

“At the time, I don’t think any of us could have imagined the magnitude to which COVID-19 impacted the world, the global economy, and the movement of people. I never imagined we’d see travel in the Department come to a near stand-still and I don’t think you did either. We couldn’t predict what was to come, and moreover, I don’t think any of us would have thought we would be in much the same place today as we were last spring.

“Now today I can tell you that travel volume across the Department has increased slightly, but it is still down about 48 percent of what it was in December of 2019, and no one has been impacted more than our travel industry partners. The pandemic has been devastating to the travel industry—and we will hear a little more about that as we go on this week’s agenda—and it will continue to have impacts for years to come.”

Key government and industry stakeholders, including DTMO, the General Services Administration (GSA), NDTA, and its industry members, including members of its Government Passenger Travel Advisory Council (GPTAC), collaborated to develop the symposium’s professional program. The program, which consisted of keynote speeches, roundtable discussions, and Travel Academy classes, examined and discussed a wide range of topics focused on commercial travel issues associated with the US Government and Department of Defense’s multi-billion-dollar travel enterprise.

Attendees also had the chance to connect and learn about travel solutions and offerings during NDTA’s virtual exhibition. Held by NDTA in conjunction with the symposium each year, the expo provides a key opportunity for networking and education.

While all facets of travel faced immense obstacles and changes over the past year, it was clear throughout the symposium that the US Government and its industry partners remain resilient—and that their dedication to the government traveler remains unwavering.

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