WASHINGTON — Two days after Sen. Tom Coburn introduced a bill to reduce the money spent on federal travel, the U.S. travel industry released a study Friday touting the economic benefits of government meetings and conferences.
Government travel for meetings and events had a total economic impact of $24.4 billion in 2011, supported 343,800 U.S. jobs and $14.5 billion in U.S. wages, and contributed $5.5 billion in tax revenue, according to the study commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association.
“We hope these new findings will encourage congressional leaders to re-evaluate proposals to drastically cut government travel budgets across the country,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.
“When conducted responsibly, federal workers who travel for conferences and meetings deliver important services and real value to our nation,” Dow said.
In the wake of recent scandals over lavish government conferences, the concern of many lawmakers is that government spending on conferences hasn't been responsible.
Coburn, R-Muskogee, who has pushed for cuts in government travel for several years, said Wednesday, “Time and time again, taxpayers are frustrated by extravagant and expensive conferences that are exposed after conferences take place.”
He said his bill, co-authored by four other Republican senators, “will help prevent such egregious spending from happening in the first place while forcing agencies to disclose how much they have spent on conferences.”
The bill would prohibit any conference costing more than $500,000, limit participation at conferences held outside of the United States and require agencies to post the details of their conferences online. The White House budget office also would have to draw up new guidelines for acceptable travel expenses.
The travel industry study says the cost per participant for government conferences was far lower than at private sector conferences. Moreover, it says, canceling conferences costs more in the long run since numerous duplicate meetings must be held “at a greater net cost.”
When conducted responsibly, federal workers who travel for conferences and meetings deliver important services and real value to our nation.”
President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association