11 JUL 2018: Regular readers will recall that last November Brand USA hired a regional sales director to represent them in Canada. Karly Melo the new appointee was to be backed up by a New Zealand company with offices in Chicago (they subsequently occupied an office in Toronto). The Canadian industry was, too put it mildly, shocked and angry. By Brand USA’s own stated requirements, Melo was unqualified for the position. It was a baffling decision as was the choice of bringing in TimeZoneOne over a Canadian company. Now seven months later, Melo has left, and when we asked Brand USA who would replace her - well don’t hold your breath Canadian DMOs.

When we learned last week that Melo had left we asked Brand USA’s vice president Global Trade Development, Cathleen Domanico, whether a new regional director had been selected or whether Brand USA would be issuing an RFP for new representation in Canada.

You would think this is the ideal opportunity for Brand USA to let Canadians know we’re really not an afterthought in the grand scheme of American tourist dollars.

Domanico responded, “Time Zone One will be finding her replacement and we hope to have the position filled very soon.”

This is puzzling on various levels. As far as we know TimeZoneOne had not been awarded the contract based on the original RFP and if that is the case, why isn’t a new RFP being issued? Why is the New Zealand/Chicago company hired to back up the Canadian regional sales director – hiring the replacement?

So we went back to Domanico to check - asking whether TimeZoneOne had been awarded the contract based on the original RFP.

We did also remind her that the Canadian DMO’s who responded to the original RFP were disillusioned and frustrated at the choices made by Brand USA last November.

We also asked about another issue that surprises us. Brand USA has been a stalwart supporter and sponsor of Discover America Canada Media day held each October. This year they have passed on sponsorship, apparently citing budget issues. However, this is not a high-priced event and one has to wonder why, in this of all years, Brand USA has chosen not to support what has been a popular event that garners positive press for American destinations from its largest International tourism provider?

Our correspondence with Brand USA took place Friday afternoon. While we had a prompt response to the first email, there has been no response to the follow up.

This is an odd time for Brand USA to thumb their noses at the Canadian Trade. As much as Canadians love their US neighbours, the rhetoric from Washington could take a toll.

A Bloomberg article last week quoted a Nanos Research Survey that said Canadians ‘were ready to go to war’ with the US over tariffs and suggesting that Tourism to US will take a hit. Bloomberg wrote:

“The Nanos Research survey, conducted for CTV News, reveals the majority of Canadians are likely to cut back on travel to the US (73 percent) and boycott goods made south of the border (72 percent).

“Furthermore, 68 percent of respondents said they’re likely to avoid US retailers in Canada.”

The poll results, were released last Wednesday, less than a week after Canada retaliated against Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs with its own levies on $16.6-billion worth of US goods.

Bloomberg noted, “The majority of respondents to the Nanos poll also said they are worried about Trump’s claim the trade dispute is going to cost Canadians a lot of money, a comment he made shortly after the controversial G7 summit in Quebec. Participants from Quebec showed the greatest concern, and those in British Columbia showed the least amount of concern.”

Personally, I believe those numbers are high. Canadians are angry, and they may lash out, but they enjoy vacationing in sunnier climes, some have second homes in the US, and it’s likely that those who also conduct business there, will for at least the near future, continue to cross the border.

However, at IPW this year Roger Dow, president and CEO of the US Travel Association (USTA), noted that while more people around the world are travelling than ever before – too many are visiting places other than the US.

“Bottom line: we’re falling behind our competitors.” Said Dow, “France – up. Germany – up. China – up. But from 2015 to 2017, the US share of the global travel market slipped from 13.6 percent to 11.9 percent.”

However, the suggestion that visitors to the US may be concerned about their safety because of terrorism, is unlikely. As my colleague Mike Baginski, wrote in an article from IPW, it’s not imported terrorism that concerns most visitors to the US, it’s the home grown violence.

The proliferation of gun violence, the level of bullying, the threatening rhetoric out of Washington ratcheting up to levels unheard of in diplomacy and civilized discourse all cause unease. The heightened aggression and racist hostility between ordinary citizens is revolting, and no matter the spin put on it, the removal of small children from their parents and the mindboggling chaos as they attempt to repatriate families is heartbreaking and just wrong.

These are the factors that are becoming more unsettling every day to visitors. If anything, it is these factors that will deter Canadians and others travellers.

In fact, as trade tensions escalate between the two countries, China’s embassy in Washington has issued a security advisory to Chinese nationals travelling to the US.

Chinese tourists are being warned to be aware of issues including expensive medical bills, the threats of public shootings and robberies, searches and seizures by customs agents, telecommunications fraud and natural disasters.

“Public security in the United States is not good. Cases of shootings, robberies, and theft are frequent,” the embassy said in the alert published on its website.

“Travellers in the United States should be alert to their surroundings and suspicious individuals, and avoid going out alone at night.”

Despite all this, and regardless of politics, it is my firm belief that the vast majority of Americans remain as they always were - kind, caring, considerate, respectful, welcoming and original. They are our neighbours and our friends.

Still, in the roiling turmoil that has become the face of America in the unending news cycle, one would have to think that Brand USA would see the benefit in supporting Discover America’s Media Day in Canada. These are your friends. They support you.

And as for the Canadian representation for Brand USA – it was incomprehensible in November – it is even more so now. TimeZoneOne should not be appointing a new regional sales director to represent Brand USA in Canada. A Canadian company should be doing that – and then backing them up.

If you haven’t read the backstory or need a reminder …







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