TI News
 Subscribe TI News Archive

TI News: An information service from Office of Travel & Tourism Industries (OTTI)

ANNOUNCEMENT OF FEDERAL FUNDING OPPORTUNITY

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

  • Federal Agency Name:  Office of Travel and Tourism Industries (OTTI), International Trade Administration (ITA), Department of Commerce (the Department)
  • Funding Opportunity Title:  U.S. Destination Website Research, Development, Implementation, and Marketing
  • Announcement:  Initial Announcement of Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO)
  • Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Numbers:  11.113
  • Dates:  Proposals are accepted on a continuing basis and applications are invited and processed as received.  Applications must be received by 4:00 PM eastern Daylight Savings Time on November 14, 2006.  Applications received after the closing date and time will not be considered.
  • Application Submission:  Proposals and applications must be submitted to ITA as set forth below.  They may be submitted electronically, by mail, or by hand to ITA.
  • Funding Opportunity Description:  ITA announces general policies and application procedures for a cooperative agreement that will fund the recipients research, development, implementation, and marketing of a consumer website to provide content and information on the United States as a premier destination to international inbound travelers.

FULL ANNOUNCEMENT TEXT

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Section I.  Funding Opportunity Description
Section II.  Award Information
Section III.  Eligibility Information
Section IV.  Application and Submission Information
Section V.  Proposal Review Information
Section VI.  Award Administration Information
Section VII.  Agency Contacts
Section VIII.  Other Information and Requirements

I. Funding Opportunity Description

    A.  Program Objectives and Description

Through this cooperative agreement opportunity, ITA is soliciting applications from organizations to research, develop, implement, and market an international travel and tourism consumer website (or enhancement to an existing site) for the United States.  The overall objective of the website is to represent the United States as a travel and tourism destination for the purposes of increasing awareness, positive perception, and intent to travel to the United States from five identified markets.  The five markets represent the largest originating countries for inbound international travelers to the United States and include the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Mexico, and Germany.

The principal strategy of the program is to design and implement a website, based on primary and secondary consumer research, that provides content and information on the United States as a premier destination to international inbound travelers from the five key markets.  It is envisioned that the website will be the benchmark U.S. travel and tourism information portal for international travelers to the United States.  The website will encompass information on all components of the U.S. travel and tourism industry.  This will include, but is not limited to, destinations, attractions, natural resources, dining and lodging facilities, and transportation companies.   

The website will provide accurate and timely information regarding the United States as a travel and tourism destination and deliver a coordinated message that communicates the diversity of the American travel product.  It will reflect the brand value of the United States, as determined through consumer market research in the target markets, and benefit all regions of the country.  From a technical perspective, the website will be able to accommodate millions of unique visitors per month.  It must be capable of managing extremely high levels of user traffic without disruption to its speed or functionality.  The website will not include a booking engine at this time, but should be sufficiently flexible to move toward booking functionality in the future. 

The awarded total will be approximately $3,600,000 to be dispersed over a two-year award period.  It is a requisite that the recipient match at least 25 percent of the awarded total.  Applicants must verify and demonstrate in their applications that matching funds are available during the time period of the agreement as matching funds are required to complete the project.  Matching funds must be provided by either the applicant or by a third party in the form of cash or in-kind contributions and they must be spent on eligible expenses and are required to be from eligible sources.

Funding provided by the ITA cooperative agreement is intended to serve the four distinct functions of research, development, implementation, and marketing.  Prior to the implementation of the website, the recipient will use funding to conduct consumer market research on the site’s international target audience.  This will provide insight into the Internet usage habits of the website’s identified consumers, such as technical and cultural factors.  Through initial market research, the recipient will familiarize itself with consumer demographics and psychographics in the identified international target markets.  This will ensure that the website meets the travel and tourism informational needs of potential travelers to the United States. 

ITA will assist by providing copies of initial market research it conducted for a promotional campaign in the United Kingdom and Japan.  Additionally, ITA will supply assistance in the design and execution of research including, but not limited to: providing technical consultation in the design and execution of the research; participating in the analysis of research data and the interpretation of research findings. This will supplement, not replace, the requirement to conduct independent market research in the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Mexico, and Germany. 

The cooperative agreement will fund the design and implementation of the website, which will be directed by the desire for an interactive interface with specific key functions.  These include, but are not limited to: a content and graphic management solution; easy navigation and user experience focus; double opt-in marketing database functionality; mapping functionality; fully functional and searchable multi-language capability (initially in English, Spanish, German, French, and Japanese); currency calculators; weather information; and calendars of events. 

In addition, the website will have an informational content component to provide users with accurate and timely information on documentation requirements for travel to the United States.  It will also feature other “know before you go” or other pertinent information that would ease and/or facilitate travel to the United States.  This will include, but is not limited to, information on visa requirements, entry/exit procedures, and the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).  The applicant will provide a comprehensive plan for its intended approach to update the website on a frequent and consistent basis to reflect important changes in procedures and policies that impact international inbound travelers to the United States.  The plan should include the methodology that will be used for obtaining the information.

Following the development of the website based on extensive research of the identified international target markets, the recipient will use awarded funds for marketing purposes.  A marketing plan will be created and executed to create awareness of the website and induce visitation by consumers in each of the targeted international markets. 

The recipient will devise a metrics program to measure the effectiveness of the marketing effort.  This will be accomplished through items such as the following: counting the number of unique visits to the website; monitoring the parts of the site being visited; noting websites linked from the site; tracking the websites visitors enter from; and utilizing Internet-based survey tools to determine user friendliness, content, and functionality. 

The data provided by the metrics system should provide the level of detail to sufficiently understand how effectively the website performs or where to make modifications to improve performance.  For example: behavioral pop-up ads with a comparison to travel and tourism industry norms (with notation for mitigating factors); co-registration and e-postcard results (with notation for mitigating factors); cooperative advertising with detail on traffic sent to each cooperative sponsor site and marketing return on investment (ROI) for the sponsor.  All data collected through the metrics system should include performance analysis and insight, which will assist in making adjustments to the website, if appropriate.

Throughout the specified cooperative agreement period, the recipient will be required to maintain contact with ITA and the Program Manager on the progress of the website’s research, development, implementation, and marketing.  ITA and the recipient will maintain a working relationship for the specified period.  The recipient will keep the Department informed on items such as the results from initial market research for the website, the preliminary design and content for the site, the web address selected for the site, and the marketing plan.

The Department will have the opportunity to provide feedback and review at all stages of the research, development, implementation, and marketing process.  This will ensure the website shall not conflict with the policies set forth by the National Tourism Policy for the United States.  The Department, in cooperation with the private sector-led Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, is currently finalizing a strategy to serve as the foundation for the Policy.

Because the funding provided by the cooperative agreement is for a specified period of time only, each applicant will include a detailed plan to maintain the website once federal monies are no longer available.  Cooperative marketing partnerships are encouraged as one means by which to generate the resources needed to sustain the website once the cooperative agreement period expires, as well as during the cooperative agreement period.

    B.  Program Priorities

The goal of the ITA U.S. Destination Website Research, Development, Implementation, and Marketing Cooperative Agreement is to identify an organization to receive monies for the purposes of research, development, implementation, and marketing of the premier international travel and tourism consumer website for the United States.  The overall objective of the website is to represent the United States as a travel and tourism destination for the purposes of increasing awareness, positive perception, and intent to travel to the United States from five identified markets. 

The website will increase awareness of the United States as a destination in the global travel and tourism market and reduce hesitance to travel to the country.  It will create the impression of a welcoming experience by offering trip/mapping capabilities and suggested itineraries for visitors.

ITA encourages proposals from organizations with the capability and resources necessary to effectively research, develop, implement, and market a U.S. travel and tourism website to international target markets.  Furthermore, ITA encourages proposals from organizations that can expand the benefit to other industries that directly benefit from increased travel to the United States, such as retail, sports, and entertainment.

   C.  Program Authority

The authority for the United States Destination Website Development, Implementation, and Marketing is Section 210 of Public Law 108-7 and Public Law 109-108.

II. Award Information

    A.  Funding Availability

In fiscal year 2007, approximately $3,600,000 will be available for the cooperative agreement for a two-year award period.  ITA envisions one award.

   B.  Type of Funding Instrument

Cooperative Agreement. ITA will be substantially involved in the project as described in Section I above. 

   C.  Project and Award Periods

The award period will be two years.

III. Eligibility Information

   A.  Eligible Applicants

Eligible applicants for the program include all for-profit or non-profit U.S. corporations, associations, organizations, and Native American Tribal Governments (Federally recognized) and state and local Governments.

   B.  Cost Share/Matching Requirements

The amount of Federal funds awarded for this cooperative agreement will be approximately $3,600,000 to be disbursed over a two-year period.  It is a requisite that the grantee match at least 25% of the awarded Federal funds.  The total of the awarded Federal funds plus the amount of the grantee’s match will be the project cost. The cost share must be provided by either the applicant or by a third party in the form of cash or in-kind contributions and they must be spent on eligible expenses and are required to be from eligible sources. Applicants must verify and demonstrate in their applications that matching funds are available during the time period of the agreement as the matching funds are required to complete the project.

IV. Application and Submission Information

   A.  Address to Request Application Package

The full funding announcement and application forms can be found at http://www.grants.gov. For addresses and telephone numbers to request application forms from ITA officials, see section VII.A.  

   B.  Content and Form Application Process

Applications submitted in response to this announcement may be submitted through the Grants.gov website.  Alternatively, applications may be submitted by mail or hand delivery per the detailed instructions below.  Electronic access to the full funding announcement and application materials for this program is available via the Grants.gov web site: http://www.grants.gov.  This announcement will also be available by contacting the Program Officials identified below.

Paper submission – if mailed:  Because regular mail is subject to radiation upon receipt by the Department, it is recommended that mailed paper submissions be couriered by FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc. If the application is mailed/shipped overnight by the applicant or its representative, one (1) signed original and two (2) copies of the application must be submitted.  Completed application packages must be mailed to:  Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce; 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW, Room 1003, Washington, DC 20230 (Attn:  Julie Heizer or Brian Beall).

Paper submission – if hand-delivered:  If the application is hand-delivered by the applicant or his/her representative, one (1) signed original and two (2) copies of the application must be delivered to U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, HCHB, Entrance 10, 15th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. (between Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues).  The Department’s hand-delivery policies state that organizations such as FedEx, UPS, and DHL overnight services submitted to the address listed above (Entrance 10) cannot be accepted.  These policies should be taken into consideration when utilizing their services.  ITA will not accept applications that are submitted by the deadline but rejected due to Departmental hand-delivery policies.  The applicant must adhere to these policies in order for the application to receive consideration for award.

Proposals are accepted on a continuing basis and are processed as received.  Applications must be received by 4:00 PM eastern daylight savings time on November 14, 2006.  Those applications received after the closing date and time will not be considered.  ITA recommends that applicants not wait until the application deadline date to begin the application process through http://www.grants.gov. 

   C.  Content and Format of Application Submission

Each application must include, at a minimum, the following elements.  Failure to comply with the prescribed format as outlined will result in an application not being reviewed.

  • Required Forms.  At time of application submission, all applicants shall submit the following forms with signatures of authorizing representative of the submitting institution (note: submission through Grants.gov results in automatic electronic signatures on these forms, except the CD-346).
    • SF-424, Application for Federal Assistance
    • SF-424-A, Budget Information, Non-Construction
    • SF-424-B, Assurances, Non-Construction Programs
    • CD-511, Certifications Regarding Lobbying
    • CD-346, Applicant for Federal Assistance (if applicable, required of key individuals associated with organizations that are non-profit, sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations, and joint ventures.  This form is only available at http://www.osec.doc.gov/forms/pdf/cd346fll.pdf and must be uploaded into Grants.gov with other parts of the application)
    • SF-LLL, Disclosure of Lobbying Activities (if applicable)
  • Title Page:  The title page identifies the project’s title, the Program Manager and co Program Manager names, affiliations, complete mailing address, email address, telephone and fax numbers.  The requested budget for each project-year must also be included on the title page.  If a hard copy is submitted, the institutional authorized representative should sign the title page.
  • One-Page Abstract: The abstract is used to assist in comparing applications quickly.  The abstract shall summarize the key points of the proposal including an introduction describing the project activities, partners involved, and the expected outcome(s). The abstract should appear on a separate page, headed with the proposed title, institution(s) key personnel, total proposed cost, and budget period.
  • Project Description:  All aspects of the two-year project must be completely described.  The project description should clearly identify project implementation and management with an explanation of the functions of each participant.  It should provide a full justification for and explanation of the project.  This section, should, at a minimum, include:
    • The approach to meet the objectives of the cooperative agreement; i.e. United States Destination Website Research, Development, Implementation and Marketing.
    • Methodology and timeline for research for all five markets.
    • Approach and timeline for web-site development and implementation.
    • Marketing approach and timeline.
    • Approach for Cost Share/Matching Funds and sustaining website after federal funds are no longer available.
    • Approach for metrics and timeline.
  • Milestone Chart:  Provide time lines of major tasks and potential outcomes covering the duration of the proposed project.
  • Budget:  All applications must include a budget narrative and a justification to support all proposed budget categories.  This narrative and justification will provide enough detail to allow the review panel to evaluate the level of effort proposed.  Specifically, the narrative must provide details on:  personnel salaries and fringe benefits (broken out by percent time and number of months devoted to the project for each individual to be paid by project); travel (if any) including per person and per trip costs for transportation, lodging and meals, equipment, supplies; contractual costs, such as anticipated sub-awards; and other costs (if any) such as printing, publications, and communication costs.  Documentation regarding indirect-cost-rate agreements must also be included, if available. 
  • Brief Resumes:  All principal and/or key personnel for both the applicant and project partners must be provided. 
  • Past Performance References:  This section should provide at least three recent and relevant references for the applicant and any other project partner.  References should include:  name, address, telephone number of reference, as well as a brief description of the services performed, time period, dollar value, and contract number.

V. Proposal Review Information

   A.  Evaluation and Selection Procedures

After receiving the applications, ITA will screen each one to determine the applicant’s eligibility to receive an award.  A review panel composed of at least three (3) Government and (a) travel and tourism industry representative(s) will review the applications applying the Evaluation Criteria below, score them, and forward a ranking to the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Services (DAS).  There will be no consensus advice provided by the evaluation panel.  From the ranked applications forwarded by the evaluation panel, the DAS selects the application that will receive funding.  In making her decision, the DAS will consider the review panel’s evaluations and take into consideration the review panel’s ranking.  The DAS may deviate from the evaluation panel’s ranked recommendation only based on the following factors: (1) Funding Priorities (see below) and (2) the availability of funds.

   B.  Evaluation Criteria

ITA is interested in projects that demonstrate the possibility of both significant results during the award period and lasting benefits extending beyond the award period.  All eligible and complete applications will be evaluated based on the following criteria and maximum point allowances.  Failure to address any one of the following criteria by the application deadline will result in an application being determined incomplete and the application will not be considered. The total points available are 100. 

  1. Quality of Work Plan (30%):  The evaluation of work plan quality will be based on whether or not the proposal demonstrates a sound plan that will meet the objectives in a timely and efficient manner.  The evaluation will take into consideration how well the steps for executing the plan are defined, the soundness of the proposed steps, the likelihood that they will achieve the intended result,and the soundness and realism of the proposed milestones/timelines.  Applicants that propose to enhance an existing website will be evaluated on the same criteria.  Factors to be considered include:
      • The soundness of the research methodology for all markets, to include: primary and secondary consumer research that tests brand identity for the United States as a travel destination; cultural differences present in individual markets with respect to language and receipt of brand messages; and technical proficiencies and preferences.
      • The website’s development and implementation, to include: the overall concept for website; the applicant’s team past experience in developing and launching international websites in multiple languages; scalability (i.e., the ability to maintain a website’s availability, reliability, and performance as the amount of simultaneous web traffic, or load, demands of the host server increases); expandability; approach for correcting faults; improving performance or adapting to changed environments; and content (to include approach for ensuring information is accurate and updated regularly). 
      • The proposed marketing approach for all markets, to include: past performance and buying power of the identified media company(s) in all markets; the soundness of the approach; and the ability to leverage media buying dollars.
      • The metrics proposed to evaluate performance, to include: unique visitors; the part of site that is being visited; the number of linking sites; the identities of referring sites; the number and extent of joint promotions; and data provided by Internet consumer surveys to gauge user satisfaction with areas such as, but not limited to, usability, content, and functionality.  All data provided should include performance analysis and insight, both of which would assist in making adjustments, if appropriate.  
      • The proposed timelines and milestones for the website’s required research, development, design, implementation, marketing, and success measurement.
      • The plan for securing and reflecting input from the U.S. Department of Commerce in the development of brand identify, website look and feel, policy regarding content and on-going content review and revisions.
  1. Management Plan, Capabilities and Experience, and Personnel Qualifications (40%):  The quality of the management plan, the qualifications of the proposed personnel, and the applicant’s capabilities and past performance relevant to this project will be evaluated in terms of:
      • The overall organizational capabilities and experience of the applicant and its identified partners. 
      • An assessment of the relevancy and adequacy of the number, qualifications, past experience and staffing mix, and proposed roles for staff that will be involved (note that resumes for proposed personnel will facilitate in the evaluation of the relevancy, competency and experience of proposed staff).
      • The management control approach, progress measurements, reporting system, and the project plan that reflects milestones and deliverables needed to meet the objectives of the project.
      • The ability to mobilize industry partners for content, offers, and future investment.
      • The demonstration of prior experience managing international marketing campaigns that promote travel and tourism and previous experience with multi-language execution.
      • An assessment of the applicants’ previous performance/experience and success with similar programs, including an assessment of previous website design, development, and implementation.
      • An assessment of the applicant’s previous performance/experience with primary and secondary consumer market research.
  1. Budget and Sustainability (30%):  The factors of budget and sustainability include the reasonableness of the itemized budget for project activities, the amount of cost share/matching requirements that is available, the applicant’s plan to maintain the website after the award period, and the probability that the project can be continued on a self-sustained basis after the completion of the cooperative agreement.

The three criteria together constitute the application score.  The total possible points are 100.

   C.  Funding Priorities

Applicants that meet at least one of the following criterions will be given more favorable consideration in the proposal review process:

  1. Applicants with the ability to expand the positive affects of the website to industries that directly benefit from increased travel to the United States.  These include, but are not limited to, retail, sports, and entertainment.
  2. Knowledge and understanding of the U.S. and global travel and tourism industry and its direct and indirect sectors.
  3. Applicants that provide more than 25 percent match.

VI. Award Administration Information

   A.  Award Notices

The ITA Grants Officer will issue the cooperative agreement award (Form CD-450), which is the authorizing financial assistance award document.  By signing Form CD-450, the recipient agrees to comply with all award provisions.  It is provided by postal mail to the appropriate business office of the recipient’s organization and must be signed and returned without modification by the recipient within thirty (30) days of receipt. 

Unsuccessful applicants will be notified that their proposals were not recommended for funding.  ITA will retain unsuccessful applications for seven years, after which they will be destroyed.

   B.  Administrative and National Policy Requirements

Administrative and national policy requirements for all Department of Commerce awards are contained in the Department of Commerce Pre-Award Notification Requirements for Grants and Cooperative Agreements, published in the Federal Register on December 30, 2004 (69 FR 78389).  This notice may be accessed by entering the Federal Register volume and page number provided in the previous sentence at the following Internet website: http://gpo.access.gov/fr/retrieve.html.

   C.  Reporting

The recipient is required to submit financial and performance reports, including sources and uses of funds.  Financial reports are to be submitted to the Department of Commerce Grants Office on a quarterly basis.  A final financial report is due within 90 days after expiration of the award. Performance reports are to be submitted to the ITA Federal Program Officer.  All performance reports must be submitted in triplicate (one original and two copies) to the ITA Program Officer via paper and electronic submission.  Reports are due on a quarterly basis and must be submitted no later than thirty (30) days following the end of the three-month period(s) in the established award.  Final reports are due ninety(90) days after the award completion.  Lack of reporting by the recipient may result in restitution of a portion of the funds as determined by the Department.

VII. Agency Contacts

   A.  Award Contacts

Applicants may contact Brian Beall ((202) 482-5634, email: brian.beall@mail.doc.gov) or Cynthia Warshaw ((202) 482-4601, email cynthia.warshaw@mail.doc.gov) to obtain the full funding opportunity package and/or application package. 

VIII. Other Information

   A.  Electronic Access

A link to the full text of the Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) Announcement for the program can be found at http://www.grants.gov or by contacting the ITA individual(s) named in section VII.A.  If you submit your request by e-mail please include in the subject line:  Request for Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO).  The FFO contains a full and complete description of the program requirements.  In order to receive proper consideration, applications must comply with all information and requirements contained in the FFO. Standard Forms 424, 424A, 424B and SF-LLL can be obtained at http://www.grants.gov.  Forms CD-511 and CD-346 may be obtained at: http://www.doc.gov/forms.

If making a submission through http://www.grants.gov, the date and time for receipt of application will be the date and time received at by the website.  Applicants should print and save the proof of submission they receive from http://www.grants.gov.  Applications received after the closing date and time will not be considered.

   B.  Limitation of Liability

Funding for this program is currently available subject to the availability of funds.  However, in no event shall the Department be responsible for proposal preparation costs if the funds are cancelled.  Publication of this notice does not obligate the Department to award any specific project or to obligate any available funds. 

To apply for this cooperative agreement, please complete the following forms (required):

SF 424

SF 424a

SF 424b

CD-511

CD-346

SF LLL