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United States Flag Meeting Notes for the December 8, 2003 Meeting

United States Travel and Tourism Promotion Advisory Board

Meeting Minutes
Monday, December 8, 2003
Denver, Colorado

  1. Welcome and Introductions
    • DFO Julie Heizer officially opened the meeting at 11:10 a.m. MST, and turned the meeting over to Jay Rasulo, Chair of the Travel and Tourism Promotion Advisory Board.
    • Mr. Rasulo welcomed the members, their representatives and guests to the meeting in Denver, thanking the Colorado Tourism Board and the Hyatt Regency for their gracious hosting of the meeting. He asked Doug Jones, Vice Chairman, Colorado Tourism Board, if he would like to say a few words.
    • Mr. Jones thanked the Board for meeting in Denver. He said international tourism is critical to the United States, and is also critical to Colorado. He thanked the Board and the Department of Commerce for its work to increase international tourism via efforts such as the $50M promotion campaign.
    • Rasulo said this was the third meeting of the Board, and in order to have public commentary from the industry, it is wise and smart for the Board to move around the country from time to time. He said he anticipates the January and February meetings will be held in Washington, DC but that he hoped the March meeting would be held in Orlando, FL.
    • As part of this afternoon’s agenda, Rasulo said he wanted to have a discussion about future meetings as Mondays are not good for some of the Board members.
    • He briefly summarized the meeting’s agenda for all those present, before moving ahead with the agenda.

  2. Update of Sub-Committee Work
    1. Marketing/Communications
      • Rasulo reminded those present that he chairs the Marketing/Communications sub-committee, and that several teleconference meetings had been held between the October meeting and this meeting.
      • It was during one of the sub-committee meetings that Betsy O’Rourke (Senior Vice President, Travel Industry Association of America) presented the SeeAmerica campaign to the members of the sub-committee. He said the SeeAmerica campaign is not a broadly integrated communications program, but one that is very targeted and Internet-focused.
      • He asked Ms. O’Rourke to present a brief update of the SeeAmerica campaign to the Board.
      • Ms. O’Rourke thanked the Chair for the opportunity to speak briefly about the SeeAmerica campaign developed for TIA by Booz-Allen as a result of the outgrowth of recommendations made during the White House Conference on Travel and Tourism in 1995.
      • TIA built a brand, SeeAmerica, using a website as a hook, to encourage international consumers to travel to the United States. The website, www.seeamerica.org, includes information about and links to the majority of the travel and tourism industry in the U.S. Once the original program was up and running, TIA then expanded it to include outreach to the international travel trade through SeeAmerica weeks in market, trade shows, educational seminars, media marketplaces, etc. Today, the program stands at 65 events held in 21 countries.
      • This year, TIA has teamed with Orbitz, Hertz and Best Western and the National Park Service, to feature “See America’s National Parks” in a series of themed programs. (Last year, TIA did a similar joint cooperative venture with America’s Scenic Byways, that included itinerary development for each state, and that still is getting website hits even though the program is complete.)
      • All told, TIA has worked with more than 400 cooperative partners in more than 50 programs over the past three years since the program’s inception.
      • At this time, there is no umbrella consumer advertising campaign in place (as there has been insufficient funding for same). However, TIA had originally developed a “celebrity campaign” whose theme was “When I See America, I see ______.” Celebrities would have been asked to complete the sentence and to allow TIA to utilize their image in the print campaign that was envisioned. (For instance, Tiger Woods may have said, “When I See America, I see the luscious green golf courses of Arizona,” or something along those lines.)
      • TIA’s idea was to work with different celebrities who would appeal to the various international markets, recognizing that in Germany, Arnold Schwarzenneger would likely have broader appeal than perhaps might Jackie Chan.
      • O’Rourke said TIA would be pleased to “donate” this program’s use to the Travel and Tourism Promotion Advisory Board.
      • A full copy of the campaign report was provided to each Board member in both CD and paper format.
      • Rasulo thanked O’Rourke for her presentation, saying the notion of using celebrities was interesting, and that the Board would keep that in mind as it moves forward.
      • Doug Baker introduced two “promotional” videos that had been previously developed – one by the Travel America Coalition (encouraging international travel to the United States) and one by the federal government (promoting continued positive relations with peoples of the Muslim faith).
      • The first video was a 60-second advertisement introduced in the United Kingdom shortly following the first Gulf War. In it, then President George Bush talked about the wonderful things to see and do in America, and closed by asking, “What are you waiting for? An invitation from the President?”
      • The second video was a 90-second promotion targeting U.S. relations with Muslim people who had immigrated to the United States. It was a “mini-interview” with a Muslim business owner and members of his family, who talked about how they had been warmly embraced by their community, and how they had not been criticized and/or ostracized following the events of September 11.

    2. Measurement/Research
      • The Chair called upon Martin White, United Airlines, to provide the Measurement/Research sub-committee’s report.
      • Mr. White said he was on the fourth week of his new job, but that with the assistance of the sub-committee’s working group members, he had discerned that the two main metrics of the Measurement/Research sub-committee are to measure the effectiveness of the plan, and to measure the long-term return-on-investment garnered from the implementation of the plan.
      • He said the sub-committee had held weekly conference calls since the October meeting and had already accomplished several worthwhile items:
        • 5 major consumer marketing research companies had been identified and talked with about establishing benchmark and post-campaign measures
        • Assessed sole sources to expedite research procurement process, initializing travel trade barometers in three additional target markets (Mexico, Canada, Japan)
        • A two-year budget was developed, which, while it may change, at least identifies where most of the research budget is likely to be spent; and
        • An ad-hoc group of working research analysts and marketing gurus has been identified to serve as a sounding Board for the Measurement/Research sub-committee.
      • Helen Marano was then asked to provide additional information about the sub-committee’s work to the group. She started by saying that all of the information being presented was developed considering “full funding” status. Obviously, some of this information would change dependent on the outcome of the Congressional Conference Report.
      • The sub-committee established the following approach for the measurement of the $50M campaign:
        • Install benchmarks to measure impacts of all activities
        • Measure the return on investment through a mix of performance indicators
        • Invest in research measures to be conducted over a 2-3 year period
      • The sub-committee working group has spoken with global research companies to see about the possibility of adding questions to already existing questionnaires as a good way to gain valuable “pre” campaign information without having to start from scratch.
      • Consideration is being given to a post-campaign survey or mid-campaign survey to do message testing.
      • Marano also said that benchmarks should be considered as well as for measuring what disincentives are currently in the marketplace that are encouraging people to travel to countries other than the United States. Some of these things should target the trade as well as consumers.
      • Tentative research milestones have been established as well:
        • January 2004 – Consumer Research Surveys in Market (benchmarks on incidence, interest, awareness, intent, “barriers”); Quarterly Travel Trade Barometers (bookings – past season, future seasons, “barriers,” awareness); In-Flight Surveys (behavioral benchmarks/trends)
        • February 2004 – Segmentation Analysis (determine strategic approach for targets);
        • March/April 2004 – Pre-Test Advertising (message impact)
        • Summer ’04 – Fall ’05 – Repetition of Consumer, Trade, Media and Ad Effectiveness Research (compile ROI)
      • Travel trade barometers are currently in place in two markets (U.K. and Germany), but OTTI would like to expand that to include the three other key markets beginning in January 2004 as well. This requires working closely with the Visit USA Committees and Commercial Service offices in each market – inroads we were able to make at the Travel Outlook Forum in October.
      • OTTI staff is working on summary reports for all five target countries. Handed out at the meeting was the summary for the United Kingdom, so the Board could take a look at what will be included for each market.
      • The “next steps” outlined by the measurement sub-committee are:
        • Refine total research budget (estimated at 1-3% of the value of the program)
        • Develop measurement questions (awareness, interest, intent, barriers)
        • Contract research sources on benchmarking
        • Determine “calls to action” measurements
        • Further identify other sub-committee needs and resources

  3. Board Discussion about Rescission of $40M Budget
    • Rasulo announced that there has been movement toward the rescission of 80% of the funding originally slated for this international promotion campaign. Since the original program was to have been targeted to five countries, with only $10M potentially remaining, the program will certainly need to become very different from what had been envisioned.
    • He asked Mitch Rose, government affairs specialist for Walt Disney, and Doug Baker, to provide an update on this issue.
    • Mr. Rose began by providing background on the program. In February 2003, Congress passed an Omnibus appropriations bill that included the $50 million for this promotion campaign.
    • Now, the same thing has happened, except that instead of including the $50 million, this year’s omnibus bill rescinds $40 million of the $50M appropriated. (Total rescissions included in the Conference Report equaled $200M, so travel and tourism was not targeted specifically.)
    • There are still seven outstanding bills for the government’s FY’04 budget. Just before Congress recessed for the holidays in November, they put those seven bills together in an Omnibus package.
    • Ancillary items are included as add-ons to this type of package because it is viewed as a “must pass” by Congress. Additionally, Conference Reports are unable to be amended. As such, the vote is a simple “yea,” or “nay,” with no debate.
    • The House was slated to vote on that Conference Report package on December 8, 2003. (N.B. The House passed the Conference Report on 12/8/03 as anticipated.)
    • Some members of the Senate don’t want this bill to come up. Others obviously do, and that faction of the Senate may seek a super-majority so that the bill can only be voted on in its entirety.
    • The Senate is slated to vote on the bill when it returns from the Christmas holidays, on or about the week of January 19 (the day before the State of the Union Address), or perhaps the week of January 26.
    • Baker said that the intelligence coming to the Department is that the supporters of the original legislation were not apprised of this development. The Department is working with members of the appropriations committee, and the Secretary has reached out with his concerns to appropriate contacts.
    • He said that because the time frames before the Board are very short, he doesn’t view waiting for January’s vote as a viable alternative. He added, however, that the Board should have some conversations as to what it may recommend doing in the event that the rescission does take place, though he suggested that the focus of the meeting should be on the issues being brought to the Board by the Procurement team.

  4. Update of Procurement Issues
    • Baker reminded the Board that at its October meeting, the OTTI team had said that the normal federal procurement time frame for selecting a primary contractor was ten to twelve months, but they had worked to whittle that time down to seven months, which the Board deemed was still too slow to be effective. Between the October meeting and this meeting, the team has worked feverishly with other agencies within the department, as well as with the NOAA contracting officer, to compress the timeframe even further.
    • He said the team was able to achieve that goal, and that hopefully the DOC will be able to resolve the rescission issue to maintain the aggressive time line that will be presented at this meeting.
    • He outlined the project procurement team, with Helen Marano as the Project Manager, Isabel Hill as the Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative, Diane Husereau as the Contracting Officer, and Ken Lechter as the General Counsel. Other members of the team include Greg Crider, Office of Acquisition Management, Julie Heizer, OTTI, and Mark Highfield, Contracting Specialist.
    • Baker announced that the evaluation team for reviewing proposals submitted in this process will include three members of the Department, and that two Board members (or their appointees) are also being asked to serve as non-voting members of the team. Those appointees are Michael Mendenhall, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, and Rita Cuddihy, Marriott International.
    • Baker said there are many non-disclosure rules and issues to be laid out that would preclude the Department from opening the whole process up to the Board in its entirety. Issues of conflict of interest for Board participation on the selection process could potentially eliminate most of the big advertising firms from submitting a proposal since they serve the members’ firms.
    • In order to avoid that situation, and to get the best firms possible into the process, the addition of two non-voting members on the evaluation team seemed to be the most logical way to get input from the industry, but NOT compromise the process.
    • Baker turned the meeting over to Diane Husereau, Contracting Officer, and Ken Lechter, General Counsel for their presentation.
    • Diane Husereau reported on the Procurement Process. Market research was done, with nine firms (both on and not on the General Services Administration [GSA] schedule) being asked to answer a series of questions and to attend individual meetings with the procurement team. Primary issues were: general capabilities of the firms, feasibility of using GSA or the feasibility of using an accelerated schedule.
    • It was determined that the most efficient process to utilize in order to be in market by late spring, was to solicit firms on the GSA schedule. This process provides competition and allows quality firms to compete, but does not open the process up to a “full and open” competition, which would take too much time.
    • Therefore, the schedule that was developed is as follows:
      • Request for Quotation (RFQ) Release -- 12/19/03
      • Response to Down Select Questions -- 1/7/04
      • Initial Down Select -- 1/9/04
      • Written Proposals -- 1/21/04
      • Initial Evaluations -- 1/22-27/04
      • Oral Proposals and Negotiations -- 1/28-30/04
      • Final Proposal Revisions -- 2/4/04
      • Award Decision/Senior Selecting Official (SSO) -- 2/17/04
      • Congressional Notification -- 2/18-20/04
      • Delivery Order Award -- 2/20/04
    • Husereau outlined three issues that could derail the above schedule: 1) There must be an empowered team that is given the authority to make decisions necessary to move the project forward; 2) an expedited internal approval process must be upheld in order to get in market by spring, and; 3) a variety of alternate plans should be considered in light of the proposed rescission.
    • Ken Lechter said it was the responsibility of the Office of General Counsel (OGC) to ensure that the proposal is consistent with federal regulations, including fiscal.
    • He presented several alternate plans for consideration by the Board:
      • Request for Quotation (RFQ) issued under the present scope (no rescission) with flexibility for downscoping when, as, and if the rescission is made effective
      • RFQ modified (downscoped) for release at $10M
      • No RFQ issued until funding issues are resolved and alternatives have been evaluated
    • Lechter outlined a number of legal issues relevant to the procurement process, and about which all Board members needed to be made aware:
      • Procurement Integrity forms must be signed by all members of the procurement team, including the non-voting members of the evaluation team
      • The Board needs to be aware of the potential for Conflict of Interest issues surrounding the selection of an advertising agency for this project
      • Fiscal issues are now more critical, as the Department awaits final word on the rescission. The RFQ will have to say, “subject to the availability of funds,” and a full disclosure to potential offerors must be made
      • The RFQ and an award decision must comply with the statute and regulations established
      • There is a potential for bid protests, which the Office of the General Counsel will do its best to mitigate. One of the reasons for including someone from the OGC on the procurement team was to try to ensure that most of the potential “pitfalls” had been considered prior to an RFQ ever hitting the street. However, with the potential rescission decision still pending, there may be some cause for concern
    • Husereau reiterated the evaluation and selection process, including the importance of the initial down select. She noted that the technical evaluation team would make its recommendations to the Source Selection Official, who will be Doug Baker.
    • The evaluation criteria to be used in the initial down select does several things: Minimizes proposal costs for potential offerors, streamlines the evaluation process, and keeps firms with the capability to fulfill a contract of this scope and magnitude. The final award decision will be based upon best value and technical capability, with technical being more important than price.
    • Rasulo thanked Ms. Husereau and Mr. Lechter for their presentation. He went on to say that the RFQ process is “not a cure for cancer,” and he felt that many agencies would want to submit their proposals, that no two proposals would be equal in any way, and that while some may be able to be eliminated based on price and/or capabilities, the evaluation team should be prepared to review many responses.
    • He suggested that hearing oral presentations in two to three days assumes that the evaluation team will have been able to winnow down the offerors by a significant degree. He also felt strongly that the proposals must include at least some level of creative design.
    • Given these parameters, Rasulo expressed concern that there is now insufficient time in which to accomplish the goal of making an award by February 20, 2004.
    • As a point of clarification, Helen Marano reminded the Board that the Department is not asking for a strategic plan, but rather for the strategic approach the offerors would submit. The structuring of the strategic plan would be made in partnership with DOC. In this streamlined approach, the key items for consideration would be the personnel to be assigned to this project, samples of work for international campaigns the organization has created in the past, as well as that which has been done by the creative director(s) to be assigned to this project, and past performance. She reiterated that in order for the project to be implemented by Spring 2004, the Department would need to partner with the successful bidder on the development of the strategic approach.
    • Lechter said that the initial down select provides a stringent set of criteria through which the number of firms selected for oral presentations, negotiations and written proposals would be whittled down to a manageable number.
    • Isabel Hill said that within the traditional approach (8-12 months) was the whole concept of evaluating speculative responses from potential agencies, but in order to get into the marketplace, the project team agreed that the best approach was to go through a strategic capabilities down select and then work together to develop the strategic approach.
    • Representing Charles Gargano, Brian Akley asked how many firms were likely to respond to this RFQ. He said that the first time the “I Love New York” campaign was opened for bids, more than 100 firms responded. In subsequent bid openings, approximately 50 firms responded. He additionally asked what qualifications were being put in place in order to perform the down select.
    • Husereau responded that personnel, past experience, international media buys and past creative development would all be part of the process. She said that it is important to know that the federal government only pays in arrears, not in advance, so whatever firm is selected will have to have the potential ability to pay subcontractors and/or goods and services invoices in the range of up to $35 million.
    • Marano said by using the GSA schedule, there is a somewhat more limited pool of firms who have the set of capabilities that will be required for this contract. (Research indicated approximately 10 firms that could respond from the GSA schedule.)
    • Rasulo said he was under the impression that there were to be three RFPs – creative, media buy and public relations. He also said he didn’t think anyone had ever hired an agency based on their qualifications and not on the creative ideas they would bring to the table. He said OTTI started with a proposal that was outrageous in the amount of time it was going to take to get an RFP on the street, and now has come back with a good time frame but no way to get a qualified firm out of the process. He felt strongly that the RFP (RFQ) should be about the development of creative ideas/messages from which the evaluation team could choose.
    • Marano clarified that the three briefs that were previously provided by the marketing sub-committee had been taken into account by OTTI staff and the project team, and that the ingredients from those briefs was included in the Statement of Work and Statement of Objectives that have now been developed for use in the RFP/RFQ process.
    • She further stated that in order to streamline the process, market research indicated that the creative development and the media purchasing could be done by the same organization, though some sub-contracting may be possible/necessary.
    • On behalf of J.W. Marriott, Rita Cuddihy suggested that there be at least two RFPs – one for creative and public relations activities and the second for media buy. She further suggested that these RFPs could be run in a parallel process.
    • Rasulo asked for Marriott’s assistance in giving the Department of Commerce the basis for parallel tracks. He reminded the DOC that spring is not a good time to spend money in the U.K. or maybe in some of the other markets as well. He added that the Department should not make bad decisions in haste – that spending the public’s money responsibly to create a good program is the ultimate goal. He applauded the efforts of the project team, but cautioned that perhaps the team was now trying to move too fast. He cautioned against rushing the other way simply to get into market by spring.
    • Marano said that in order for the Department to be able to accomplish the aggressive timeline that was outlined earlier, one RFP is the only way to do it.
    • On behalf of Barry Sternlicht, Sam Wright asked that given the funding uncertainties, has the Department given any thought to funding this program through general funds?
    • Baker said that all funding sources ultimately come from Congress. The seriously doubted the Department might find $40M in unused money from elsewhere in the Department.
    • Representing Jonathan Tisch, Chuck Merin said that most of the firms who would bid on this project would most likely be part of a large consortium or conglomerates who will have well-established capabilities. He would, therefore, not be particularly concerned about getting proposals from firms that could not perform the work.
    • He added, however, that the issue of having accomplished something with the $50M that could be shown to the House and Senate is a race against the clock. He cautioned the Board to be “prudently expeditious” in ensuring that the work of the Board gets done quickly, done well, and gets appropriately reported so that the money is not lost. “The wolf is at the door,” he said, and we may lose the funds if something concrete is not done very soon.
    • Akley asked if there was something that the Board should be doing.
    • Rasulo responded that individuals would certainly be encouraged to write their congressmen and congresswomen.
    • He said that being caught by surprise is never fun. He is frustrated by the process and with the time it has taken. However, he advised that staff should continue to move forward as though nothing has changed. He said “prudently expeditious” is probably the right approach as the Board would not want to have been able to save the funding only to have it squandered.
    • Bill Hyde said that the Board has to recognize that we want to have a program that generates results. We must invest wisely and get results so that we can prove that travel and tourism works for the nation’s economy. We must strike a balance and deliver a product that produces results, as well as deliver a product in an expeditious time frame.
    • Chris von Imhof said that “Plan A” is obviously the $50M in 5 markets approach. He then asked what “Plan B” would be.
    • Rasulo responded by saying that there are a number of opportunities that could be explored on a “Plan B” scenario. For instance:
      • Choose one country as a pilot for a full-blown marketing/ promotion campaign (though it will cost more money than the Board would like in getting the creative done for just one market)
      • Decide not to spend any money on creative and simply further develop TIA’s idea, spending available money on placement in one or maybe two markets
      • Spend the money on other things (such as research or other programs already in place in market)
    • Speaking for Bobby Taubman, Karen MacDonald suggested that perhaps the Board should consider other promotions in the marketplace, not necessarily limited to advertising.
    • Rasulo said that he didn’t see this funding being used for things such as trade fairs, but that there are other potential opportunities, like motivational research, that could/should be considered.
    • MacDonald suggested that funding research that would identify what will motivate international visitors to travel to the United States would be of great value.
    • Rasulo further stated that perhaps the money could be used as seed money for other promotional opportunities, but that certainly no hard decisions had been made. He once again thanked the group for their work, and recommended that this topic be brought up at the sub-committee level for further discussion.

  5. Market Insight – Germany
    • Tilo Krause-Duenow, President of Canusa Germany, one of the largest tour operator organizations in Germany, is a very active member of the Visit USA Committee in Germany. He was asked to present to the Board, the outlook on German travel to the United States. (A full copy of Mr. Krause’s powerpoint presentation is available upon request, and is included with the Board’s minutes.)
    • He said that while the number of German travelers to the United States has not rebounded to its previously high level(s) of 1999, but the numbers are slowly returning. He reminded the Board that there are 83 million Germans who have the propensity, money and desire to participate in long-haul travel, which includes the United States.
    • 2003 started with a strong increase, though bookings slowed in February through April of this year. The Fall was again strong, and an increase is anticipated for Winter bookings.
    • The outlook for 2004 is for a strong increase in demand (pent-up desire to travel to the United States). The “value for money” argument is back, as the Euro is stacking up well against the dollar. Tour operators are anticipating 45% more early bookings for travel to America, with more requests and more reservations anticipated for winter 2003/2004.
    • That having been said, there are still impacts on booking patterns that can not be overlooked:
      • Ongoing political uncertainty worldwide
      • Safety still an issue
      • Positive image of the U.S. is back
      • Good emotions for the destinations dominate
      • Increased unemployment has less influence
      • Better economic indicators
      • Stronger Euro – better value for money
      • Increase in cost of living is significant
    • Germany is still a nation of travelers:
      • In 2000, Germans booked more than 62 million holiday trips
      • Average length of stay is 14 days
      • One third of all holiday makers travel by air
      • Germans receive six weeks’ paid holidays
      • Their desire to travel the world remains intact
      • Travel becomes more global
      • USA is still the #1 dream destination
      • However, these emotions need to be stimulated in order to turn desire into bookings
      • Germans spent more than $5 billion US traveling to the states
      • 47% went sightseeing in cities
      • 42% toured the countryside
      • 36% visited National Parks
      • They stayed an average of 15.7 nights
      • They visited an average of 1.8 states
      • Their average daily visitor spending was $91.00
    • German travelers are interested in:
      • Modular and flexible tours
      • Packages tours to make bookings easy
      • Transparency and comparable pricing
      • Legal security
      • Money-back guarantee in case of bankruptcy of the tour operator and/or American operators
      • Quality for reasonable pricing
      • Ideas on where to go and what to do
      • Activities during their holidays
      • No capacity limitation
      • Healthy and positive environments
      • Exciting cities to start their trips
    • Krause said that Germans love to take long-haul travel, and the biggest competitors to the United States are Australia/New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, and Asia.
    • Distribution channels are beginning to change, with the Internet becoming more and more prevalent. However, travel agents, tour operators, advertising, public relations and trade shows still maintain their strength in the marketplace.
    • The Internet continues to be a source of information, though only about 4% are currently booking through the Internet (mostly because of hesitation about paying on-line). 81% of all long-haul bookings are made via tour operators/travel agencies, and direct sales through tour operators is still an increasing market.
    • Travel agents continue to be very important to the German consumer as a travel distribution channel. There are nearly 16,000 outlets in Germany that account for $22 billion in revenue. 57% of that turnover is produced by the travel agency chains.
    • Travel agents expect support from the U.S. travel industry:
      • 78% suggest more advertising
      • 78% want more road shows and educational seminars
      • 75% want more printed information
      • 72% want special contacts for trade inquiries
      • 55% want extended websites
    • Krause suggested that in order to reach the potential German traveler, U.S. (and German) travel marketers keep in mind the following:
      • A “hip destination” like the U.S. needs appropriate marketing
      • Emotions must stimulate decisions
      • The destination needs to be promoted
      • Fulfillment (collateral material) will influence the consumer
      • Prices and coverage in travel brochures remains important
    • The German Visit USA Committee has developed a “50 Stars” campaign in order to promote the United States as a hip travel destination. Their 2004/05 goals are:
      • To utilize the new slogan “50 Stars”
      • Print a newly designed “America” magazine
      • Produce targeted public relations activities
      • Get support from the $50M promotion campaign
      • Solicit non-traditional partners for support
      • Increase the total number of German visitors to the U.S. to 2 million by 2005
      • Get more Visit USA Committee members to support the ideas/programs of the committee
      • Develop more and stronger joint marketing in the future
    • The “50 Stars” campaign is:
      • A brand/slogan initiated by the Visit USA Committee and is supported by the committee members
      • The idea is to jointly develop/offer flexible platforms for different communications activities
      • Target: Communicate the positive image of the USA as a symbol of freedom, innovative force, individualism, untouched nature and living cities – regardless of any political or ideological factors
      • All branches are invited to join
    • There are five dream-topics to keep in mind when pitching U.S. travel to the German traveler:
      • Lifestyle
      • Sports
      • Nature
      • Culture
      • Food and Drink
    • Krause outlined the 2004 activities that are planned by the Visit USA Committee, and invited the participation of the Board and/or other industry representatives:
      • Training and breakfast seminars in nine (9) German cities
      • VUSA pavilion at all major German consumer shows
      • Participation in road shows of VUSA members
      • 50-Stars campaign
      • Who’s Who brochure
      • Membership listing for consumers
      • Improve VUSA website: www.vusa-germany.de
      • Planning of travel agent events for approximately 400 pax
      • VUSA activities supported by U.S. Commercial Service
    • From these 2004 activities, the VUSA Committee hopes to gain the following results:
      • Stimulate the consumer to travel to the USA
      • Stimulate requests for travel agents
      • Stimulate requests for tour operators
      • Send more Germans to our partners in the USA
      • Increase income for all market participants
      • Reach the best return on investment for all
      • Increase the future word-of-mouth advertising
      • Get all and more regions of the USA involved
    • Krause suggested that perhaps the way to get the best bang for the buck would be to have the contracting agency look at existing campaigns in the various markets and try to form one single international campaign from what is already in the marketplace. He also said that agencies must rely on intelligence from within the individual markets, as they are the ones with their fingers on the pulse of what’s going on in their backyards.
    • Krause closed by saying “If we ALL don’t do it NOW together, others will go for our potential markets.”
    • Von Imhof asked if tour operators were willing to provide hard dollar matches in the marketplace.
    • Krause answered that this was definitely the case. In fact, he said, it is already being done with other destinations (such as Canada). He said that all of the major tour operators in Germany (DER, FTI, Canusa) are investing every year without help from the U.S. With matching funds, he said they would invest even more heavily.

  6. Break

  7. Discussion of Additional Coordinated Activities to be Funded under Public Law 108-7, Section 210
    • Heizer was asked to present an outline of a potential public relations campaign that could be implemented before the advertising campaign would be launched in the various markets. (A copy of the powerpoint presentation is available upon request, and is attached to the Board’s minutes.)
    • A cooperative federal initiative in the form of a travel writer familiarization tour program was outlined. The National Scenic Byways routes would be used as the theme around which the tours would be designed, utilizing well-known entry and departure gateways as a way to also provide journalists with insight to destinations they may have already covered, as well as with new/lesser known destinations along the byways.
    • OTTI would work closely with its federal partners, but would also work closely with the destination marketing organizations in which the Byways are located.
    • Print and broadcast journalists from each of the five key target countries would be invited.
    • The timing for the program would be late February/early March 2004, with five to ten journalists being invited on each tour. The programs are envisioned as one week, working itineraries. Additional tours could be implemented throughout the year to show that the U.S. is a four-season destination, and to highlight thematic approaches that would garner additional earned media. The “shotgun” opening could be followed by quarterly themed tours that would appeal to journalists in each market. Future tours could be shorter in length, depending on future themes, physical locations and destination intelligence.
    • By utilizing the Scenic Byways theme, and taking into consideration the normal psychographics of consumer travelers from each of the five markets, a series of tours was developed that also provides broad geographic reach, and includes well-known and lesser-known destinations and experiences.
    • The suggested locations for the five originating tours are:
      • German Journalists – America’s Four Corners, traveling parts of the “Santa Fe Trail,” “Historic Route 66,” and/or “Grand Mesa” byways
      • Canadian Journalists – “Creole Nature Trail,” from Galveston to the MS/AL Gulf Coast or “Exotic Island Hopping,” which would include the American territories of Guam, Marianas Islands and American Samoa
      • Journalists from Mexico – “Historic National Road,” which starts in Baltimore and would end in Chicago
      • Journalists from the U.K. – Oregon, Washington State and Alaska, utilizing “Alaska’s Marine Highway” and the Alaska ferry system
      • Japanese Journalists – “Lakes to Locks,” and the “Seaway Trail,” including destinations in CT and VT, in addition to upstate New York.
    • A variety of performance measures were outlined, including the number of stories placed in both consumer and trade electronic and print media.
    • It is anticipated that the five tours will cost approximately $375,000, but it is further anticipated that in-kind donations from partners, destinations, and others would total $257,000, making the net hard cost of the start-up round of five tours approximately $118,000.
    • Board members would be approached to assist with goods and/or services for the industry sectors they represent (hotel representatives, for example, would be asked to help find complimentary accommodations, etc.). Trade association partners, such as American Bus Association or National Tour Association would be asked to request assistance from their membership on behalf of this program, providing interior transportation once the groups were assembled at the various international gateways.
    • In addition, destination marketing organizations would be asked to work with OTTI to secure complimentary attractions admissions, meals, and other goods and services that would be needed to provide the journalists with a first-class travel experience.
    • The public relations staffs of the destination marketing organizations would also be utilized to ensure that strong local coverage of the journalists being in their areas was also generated.
    • Cuddihy asked for insight into the thought process in selecting the destinations that were outlined in the proposal.
    • Heizer said she had utilized the country reports developed by OTTI to look at activities that travelers from each country normally enjoy while traveling in the United States, and then tried to match up that list of activities with Scenic Byways and gateway destinations that would mirror that list, but that would still provide something “new” on which the journalists could focus.
    • Wright asked if this project could be done by the Department of Commerce regardless of the status of the $50M.
    • Baker responded by saying that once the FY’04 budget is finalized, there would be a better idea of how it could be accomplished outside of the promotion campaign, if necessary.
    • Merin said he liked this plan because it would show a lot of Congressmen in some of the lesser-known areas of the country that something was being done for their constituents. A program like this creates political tie-in, as well as political buy-in from Congressmen who read in their local papers that the Department of Commerce instituted a program by which international journalists were in their area touring and writing stories that would feature their constituents and their destinations.
    • Rasulo said the program should not try to market to too narrow a niche. The road not taken can be followed, but OTTI should be careful not to get too far off the beaten path – some of the lesser-known destinations are lesser known because no one wants to go there.
    • He also recommended that this program be reflective of the overall advertising campaign – the theme/logo/etc. should be reflected in the media that is generated.
    • He believes the media will be interested in generating buzz about the campaign itself, which would then develop additional earned media opportunities.
    • MacDonald suggested that perhaps Board members could take advantage of speaking opportunities, such as the Canadian Journalists Association meeting that takes place at the end of February.

  8. Update on Criteria for Grants Program and Discussion of Relevant Timelines
    • Heizer was asked to present the draft criteria for the grants program.
    • She said that OTTI has put together a grants team, similar to the procurement team, in that there are several OTTI staff members as well as representatives from two other Commerce offices, including the general counsel attorney responsible for grants law, and the acting director of the grants office.
    • All of the information presented at the meeting is a result of those grants team meetings, and input from the Board is welcome.
    • It is anticipated that grant proposals involve the participation of: two or more states, cities, or regions; multiple destinations and non-profit organizations; and multiple destinations and international tour operators and/or travel agent consortia.
    • Suggested funding levels for the grants program are $250,000, $500,000 and $1,000,000. Individual destinations should be allowed to partner within one or more proposals without disqualifying “duplicative” entities’ applications.
    • Applications must complement the national “umbrella” campaign.
    • Applications must include a research component for evaluation/measurement of success, and must include “call to action” device(s).
    • The program submitted must increase travel of international visitors to the destination(s) and contribute to the economic well being of the destination(s). Clear, achievable and measurable objectives must be established.
    • The statute that established the promotion campaign was fairly vague in its mandates about a grant program. As such, additional points will be awarded in the evaluation process for applications:
      • representing multiple jurisdictions/regions,
      • presenting matching fund, sub-committee cooperative funding opportunities, and
      • focusing efforts in one of the five key target markets (Canada, Germany, Japan, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
    • A basic timeline for the development of the program was provided:
      • 15 days – Complete grant guidelines
      • 30 days – Federal Register notification
      • 30 days – Proposals written by destinations
      • 15 days – Proposals evaluated
      • 60 days – Grants office through to program office, through to the Office of the Inspector General, through to the grants being awarded.
    • All grants will be awarded based on a competitive evaluation/competitive award basis, and not on a first-come, first-served basis.
    • Heizer said time could be saved throughout this process, but she wanted to make sure the Board was aware of what the normal procedure would require.
    • Cuddihy asked if the grant guidelines were published before the larger advertising/marketing/p.r. campaign theme/logo/etc. were identified, could the grant recipients be made to conform to that theme/logo/etc.
    • Heizer said she had been led to believe that the grants guidelines could be published prior to the advertising agency being selected and before their creative work was completed, but the attorney on the grants team said it would be very difficult to force the grant recipients to develop their programs in a complementary fashion were that language not included in the original grant guidelines.
    • Rasulo said that he thought the grants must support the overall umbrella campaign. If the grant recipients could not be forced to provide that support if the guidelines were submitted prior to the creative being developed and approved. His recommendation would be to hold off on publishing the guidelines.
    • Akley asked if the grants were being opened up to include markets other than the five key target markets previously announced. Heizer said that grants could target international markets other than the five key ones, but that additional points would be given to proposals that utilized one (or more) of the five identified.
    • Merin said that while the statute may be vague, Senator Stevens’ intent was to have the grants program support the umbrella campaign. He suggested that if the recommendation were to now “put the cart before the horse,” someone should check with the Senator’s office to make sure his wishes were being met.
    • Rose concurred that the national campaign and the grants program were intended to complement one another, but the language had been purposefully left vague so as to not tie Secretary Evans’ hands in the development of the overall program.

  9. Public Comment
    • Scott Balyo, Rocky Mountain International asked whether or not matching funds were a requirement for the grant program.
      • Because the statute doesn’t specifically outline a matching funds component, it will be used as an evaluation criteria, with additional weight being given to those proposals that include a match, but matching funds can not be required. There has also been no determination made as to whether or not the match has to be hard cash, or if it can be partially comprised of in-kind donations for goods and services.
    • Dale Carroll, Advantage West-North Carolina said their regional tourism promotion/marketing program, called “Mountain South USA,” is a three-year old program in western North Carolina. They have had good success in working with tour operators from the United Kingdom, and are now working with a receptive operator in Asheville, North Carolina. They are being joined by the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well by as the tri-cities area of Southwestern Virginia and Eastern Tennessee.
    • He spoke to encourage the implementation of the grants program, and to tell the Board they believe there is a tremendous upside to pooling resources for marketing internationally.
    • They will be strengthening their efforts this winter with the U.K. release of the movie, “Cold Mountain.” They are leveraging that release with a promotional program throughout Europe.
    • A copy of his written remarks is available upon request.
    • Liz Doyle, Rhythms of the South (Nashville, New Orleans, and Atlanta) told the Board that their Rhythms of the South trade show just concluded, with 86 tour operators from 26 countries in attendance. From the research they did on-site, 70% of those in attendance said they booked business, and 100% of them said they expect to do business in Nashville, New Orleans, Atlanta and/or the South.
    • Their suppliers told them that the United Kingdom is their primary international market, followed by Germany, France and the BeNeLux.
    • Doyle invited the Board to the south for an upcoming meeting (in Atlanta, New Orleans, or Nashville).
    • In addition, she said the rescission issue angered her. There are long-term benefits and the economic well being of the nation to consider, and this rescission ignores all of that. She asked if there was a way to encumber the funds, recognizing that that approach may anger some people – but she said it was worth making people angry if there were a way to retain the $40M to be utilized in the fashion for which it was originally intended.
    • Pam Gosink, Travel Montana asked if the grant proposals had to be for new programming, or could they be for current programs.
      • She was informed that nothing specific had yet been decided about that issue.
    • Sally Pearce, National Scenic Byways Commission for Colorado, said she was a member of the marketing committee for the National Scenic Byways program. She said regional partnerships provide economic benefit and education to participants. She further said the federal partners that are working in concert on the Scenic Byways program have great resources to offer, and she was excited to potentially be part of one of the journalist fam tours that was outlined earlier in the meeting.
    • She said the Grand Circle will be developing a marketing plan that will link the National Parks and the Scenic Byways as a cooperative marketing and promotion program for both the domestic and international traveler.
      • Marano noted that the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries serves as the Secretariat for the Tourism Policy Council, a consortium of all of the federal agencies who have some area of responsibility for tourism-related issues. A TPC meeting was just held on 12/3/03, and OTTI is working to get the TPC members to add lift to any promotion/advertising/marketing program that is put forth as a result of the $50M campaign.
    • Gary Schlueter, Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours, said he was a regional receptive operator. He said that post 9/11, there was a great reduction in seat capacity to the United States by all airlines. As a result of this, his company has experienced several booking cancellations because international guests simply can’t get seats to their area. He asked if the situation of seat capacity had been addressed by the Board and/or by the airline representatives.
      • Speaking for Glenn Tilton, United Airlines, Martin White said that post 9/11, the U.S. took a huge hit around the globe relative to seat capacity. He was pleased to announce that United has recovered to pre-9/11 levels on a domestic basis, and that the international levels are coming back around as well, but not quite as quickly as the domestic side.
      • Rasulo said supply follows demand, though he said he felt some things were still out of sync. He now has a stronger sense of demand, which should point out to both air carriers and tour operators that would encourage them to begin to beef capacity back up. He said the industry must create the desire for travel so the tour operators and carriers can respond to that increased demand.
      • White additionally mentioned that many of the domestic carriers are still flying routes for military lift to and from Iraq, etc. This has also impacted the carriers’ ability to add seat capacity, as it has limited the availability of the airplanes themselves. He suggested that perhaps this would be a good time for the international carriers to be able to add capacity since their American counterparts were, to some extent, likely to continue to be engaged elsewhere.
    • Jake Steinman, North American Journeys, said his organization averages 3000 tour operator site visits per month to their website. From their comments, he has gleaned: There is skepticism about the $50M campaign. He hopes the Board will be able to reinstate the money as that situation will affect the industry’s credibility in the operators’ eyes. He suggested that if the $40M were rescinded, the Board must be ready with a “Plan B” option to put into place immediately.
    • He said that the fam tour effort was well thought out and was definitely something that was needed. He said international journalists are interested in “irony and things that are new.” He believes the journalists would write about those types of things and that they would additionally garner a lot of attention.
    • Greg Zuercher, Worldwide Partners, said that utilizing indigenous agencies in the marketplace is critical for this campaign, particularly for media and public relations activities.
    • He passed out his business card, and recommended that the Board look at their website, www.nolanguagebarriers.com.
    • N.B. A briefing paper was received in the OTTI office immediately following the 12/8/03 meeting. It was originally to have been presented in the public comment section of the meeting by Sustainable Travel International. That text is available upon request (and is attached to the meeting minutes for all Board members’ review).

  10. Next Meeting Date & Location Announcement
    • Rasulo said that the Board wants to continue on its geographic tour of the United States, and that there are several offers from various places currently on the table.
    • However, because there is some discussion that the second Monday of the month is regularly not good for several Board members, he has asked staff to poll the Board to determine if there is another time during the month that could be set aside for these meetings.
    • The next meeting is tentatively set for January 12th, but given the state of the rescission issue and other pending items, it may be best that this meeting date slides further in to January. He advised the public assembled to watch the Federal Register postings, as all Board meetings must be announced 15 days in advance of the meeting. In all likelihood, the January and February meetings will be held in Washington, DC, with the March meeting likely being held in Florida.

  11. Other Business
    • Rasulo mentioned a letter from Anheuser Busch that requests the Board’s attention on the current visa waiver program issues and the perception that America is a very unfriendly destination for international visitors.

  12. Adjournment
    • There being no further business to be brought before the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 3:25 p.m. MST.