SSCVA changes travel reimbursement policy

A change in the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority’s employee and board member travel policy intends to make it easier for employees who do not have bureau credit cards to travel on the agency’s behalf.

Andy Qunell, board president, said the policy allows those employees who do not have a bureau card to submit a purchase order in advance of the travel for the per diem amount allowed by the General Services Administration for the specific travel destination to be paid prior to travel.

The board approved the policy at its regular April board meeting. In conjunction with the change in the travel policy, board members approved a resolution concerning the advance payments of claims to include per diem expenses for employee travel among those expenses that can be paid in advance of claims presented to the board for approval.

“What we are basically doing for them is giving them the per diem and they come back with the receipts and show that this is what the money was spent on,” Qunell said.

If the employee had to spend more, and those expenses were justified, they will be reimbursed. If the employee spent less than the per diem, that amount will be reimbursed.

Qunell said not all employees at the bureau have access to credit cards. Even some of those who are authorized to use a bureau credit card do not keep those cards in their possession. Non-management employees must check out the credit card out before each authorized use.

The policy calls on employees to use the most cost-effective methods when incurring travel expenses and now allows for staff to use either a hotel or VBRO rental when booking travel.

“For all Bureau business travel, the allowable expense for housing will be actual reasonable costs at the single room rate. Bureau employees/board members shall patronize hotels and motels which offer special or government rates to the Bureau, unless alternative lodging offers greater costs benefits or is more advantageous to the conduct of Bureau business. The reservation should be made at the Event Host Hotel whenever possible,” according to the revised travel policy.

Prior policy last modified in May 2019 prohibited the use of Airbnb and any other similarly situated accommodations, according to the policy. Dave Uran, president and CEO of the SSCVA, said the new policy reflects the changes in the tourism industry.

When the policy was first adopted more than a decade ago those types of rentals were not as common, he said. Now more rentals fall into that category and are participate in the tourism industry by paying hotel tax.

“We want to support our industry nationwide,” Uran said.

Uran said the changes were needed for situations like the bureau’s recent trip to the National Softball Association conference in Panama Beach, Florida, where the host hotel was considered a timeshare where everyone had individual rooms and there were common spaces. In that case, he said, the event host hotel was considered a VBRO.

“It was kind of a grey area we wanted to clean up,” Uran said.

cnapoleon@chicagotribune.com