As the travel industry — and prices — recover from COVID-19, the General Services Administration is giving federal employees a little more leeway on hotel costs for official travel.
The base daily traveling allowances will rise slightly from $155 per day in 2021 to $157 per day in 2022. Per diem lodging rates will account for that rise, increasing from $96 per night to $98. Meals and incidental expenses will not change from their current range of $59-$79 per day.
For feds who already have an idea of their travel plans for fiscal 2023, GSA included a new calculator tool that will allow them to search by city, state, zip code or a map to determine the exact amount of their per diem.
Per diem rates are based on average daily rate (ADR) data from the lodging industry. By law, the General Services Administration sets these rates annually. While the ADR declined sharply due to COVID restrictions, GSA decided to freeze lodging rates at 2021 levels. But according to STR, the contractor that provides GSA with this data, the ADR has increased significantly since the beginning of 2021 and at points even exceeded 2019 pre-pandemic levels.
Much of the United States — about 2,600 counties — are covered by the standard Continental United States (CONUS) per diem rates. There are, however, 316 non-standard areas (NSAs), which have higher per diem rates than the standard CONUS allowance. That’s after GSA removed three regions from the NSA list, and sorted them back into the CONUS category:
GSA also takes seasonal rate changes into account.
“To better represent seasonal rate fluctuations, GSA has created seasonal rate periods in many markets where there is a sustained period (two or more months in length) where rates (ADR) are different from the preceding or following period by at least 15%,” the website says.
For example, according to GSA’s calculator, a fed traveling to New York City in October through December of 2022 would receive $286 per night for lodging. But in January and February, they would only receive $159 per night for lodging.
GSA also noted that there are allowances for increased travel reimbursements where the standards rates are insufficient. The Code of Federal Regulations outlines instances where this would apply, as well as guidance on the maximum amounts that can be reimbursed.
It’s up to GSA to establish per diem rates for CONUS, which includes the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. The Defense Department sets per diem rates for Alaska, Hawaii and the U.S. territories, while the State Department handles foreign rates.
Daisy Thornton is Federal News Network’s digital managing editor. In addition to her editing responsibilities, she covers federal management, workforce and technology issues. She is also the commentary editor; email her your letters to the editor and pitches for contributed bylines.