Army Times reports the General Services Administration is having substantial difficulty coming up with reasonable estimates of hotel rates in order to adjust government per diem allocations:

The General Services Administration hired Smith Travel Research of Hendersonville, Tenn., to provide comprehensive data on how much hotels charge for their rooms. Generally, the GSA sets the rates by doing its own phone surveys of hotels, which typically yield poor quality data.

GSA had planned to use the company̢۪s market research data to set per diem rates for fiscal 2004, which starts Oct. 1.

But many hotels wouldn’t cooperate. The GSA still had to make many follow-up calls as it set new rates. Smith Travel did not have enough data on hotels in 327 of the 453 localities — about 72 percent — where GSA sought data.

Despite the setback, Rhodes said the effort was “a step forward.†Calling hotels one by one produces unreliable data, because only about two-thirds typically respond and even then, information may not be accurate.

The GSA is looking to improve upon this process next year and will encourage hotels to share their room rates with research firms it hires. Next year, the GSA hopes to have data on enough hotels that it won̢۪t have to do its own telephone surveys.

If the government can’t figure out what a hotel room in Des Moine, Iowa goes for, is it any wonder we’re having difficulty estimating the cost of postwar reconstruction efforts in Iraq?

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.