23 NOV 2017: As surprises go, not much can beat the USA’s choice for the top job last November. However, while admittedly not in that league, Brand USA’s choice for its top job in Canada is certainly a surprise for Canada’s travel and tourism industry. When you want to promote the United States to Canadians, hiring a New Zealand company’s Chicago based office would not be our first choice. Probably not second or third either. Well, yes, they are there to back up Brand USA’s appointed regional sales director for Canada who is actually Canadian based, but, with no disrespect intended, her qualifications fall somewhat short of those outlined by Brand USA in their original RFP (request for proposal).  

So, yet again Canada suffers a profound disrespect from its southern neighbour. This is not simply the careless disregard of billeting your top supporters in dingy run down hotels (remember IPW at Harrah’s in Vegas, The Deauville in Miami, the whatever in Los Angeles), not choosing a Canadian firm to represent Canada is a slap in the face.

Karly Melo is the new regional sales director, described in an internal Brand USA email as, “a public relations professional with 7 years of experience in corporate and not-for-profit settings, managing public relations campaigns to increase media exposure and develop brand reputation…she will associate with the agency TimeZoneOne and make use of the firm’s team.”

The email, which was sent yesterday, continues, “Our new approach will allow us to be more focused and effective in Canada …”

However, under “Core Objective” the Brand USA RFP had stated, “The ideal Candidate will possess a thorough understanding of the Canadian Travel Trade industry, the Canada outbound tourism market, the airline industry and have a good working relationship with the American Embassy and Commercial Service offices in Canada.”

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Under “Functional requirements and Qualifications” it wanted first, “8-10 years’ experience in the Canadian tourism industry directly related to destination and/or tourism sales and marketing with at least 5 years’ experience in a leadership role with a proven track record of success” 


Curiously, the RFP stated that, “The successful bidder will not become an employee of Brand USA but will be expected to fulfill 100% of the duties as outlined in this RFP.”

The Brand USA email says, “Given the critical importance of the Canadian market to the USA, we realized as we were reviewing the proposals that we need to take a more customized approach that allows us to go deeper, and we posted a new RFP with the objective of identifying a single travel and tourism marketing representative to support Brand USA. We noted at the time that a key requirement for the successful candidate would be a full-time and exclusive dedication to Brand USA’s marketing objectives and goals in Canada—without the distraction of serving other destinations. Depending on the representative we ultimately selected, we would also determine whether to establish a relationship with a separate marketing and/or public relations agency in Canada to further support our efforts.”

Now this is confusing.

Brand USA is not a newbie to the Canadian market – far from it. Why the sudden adjustment? Were there no Canadian companies that fit the bill. Is TimeZoneOne committed not to have other destination clients? They have quite a few - check it out

Will Melo be working for TimeZoneOne, for BrandUSA, or for herself with BrandUSA as her single client – which pretty well means she will be working for BrandUSA.

And what are her qualifications for what is a pretty substantial position? Her Linkedin profile notes:

• Media Relations Manager, Canada and Border States for Tourism Toronto from April 2015 (2 years 8months)

• Media Relations Coordinator, Tourism Toronto from Feb 2010 to March 2015 (5years 2 months)

• Communications Intern for tourism Toronto, Jan 2010 – Feb 2010 (2 months)

Is that enough? It certainly doesn’t meet the RFP requirements.

Even if she was fantastic at Tourism Toronto, she’s going to be short on a lot of experience the job really needs. Inbound marketing for a single city (even Canada’s largest) cannot begin to compare with outbound marketing to 50 US States from 10 Canadian Provinces and two territories. Where could she possibly have gained a “thorough understanding of the Canadian Travel Trade industry, the Canada outbound tourism market, the airline industry.”

Will the Chicago office of a New Zealand company be able to provide that expertise?

And that’s just for starters.

In no way do I intend to disparage Karly Melo, I don’t know her. This is not about Melo’s dubious qualifications for the job. This is about Brand USA and the choices it makes when it comes to Canada.

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Did no Canadian DMOs make the grade? Could no Canadian company provide a designated individual to manage the Brand USA account and back them up with the necessary knowledge, proficiency and know-how? Was there no travel and tourism professional available with the necessary contacts, skills and experience required for the position? If, for whatever reason, Brand USA had to have Karly Melo, and it is a curious choice, could no Canadian firm have provided the necessary support and guidance that will be required?

Apparently not.

Somehow it seems that our neighbours to the south, thought it appropriate to appoint a ‘Middle Earth’ entity to pitch themselves to the True North! Yes, yes, we know – there’s a Canadian director.

But, here’s what we think. It’s not a good idea. It’s a terrible idea. It’s a slap in the face to Canadians and to the Canadian companies who took time, effort and made the financial sacrifice to respond to the RFP. It’s shows a lack of respect and a failure to appreciate the substantial business Canadians consistently bring to the US.

And new friends are great, but the consistency of old friends is important.

Do we all remember the great BRIC tourism expectations of a few years ago? What happened?

Brazil – fizzled. Russia – let’s just leave that alone. India – slower than expected but slowly getting there. China – we have a winner! But that takes BRIC to iC!

The US takes Canadian visitation for granted. And of course, there’s no reason it shouldn’t, we cross that border like rats following the Pied Piper.

But the tune is changing somewhat … oh, of course we’ll still come … you know we will … but they are also playing our tune (loudly) in Mexico, the Caribbean, Portugal, Ireland and many other destinations where the loonie goes further and snowbirds are more prepared than ever to fly farther to spend it.

We love you America, we just need a little love back.


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