|By Richard N. Velotta, Las Vegas
SunMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 23, 2011--The newly formed Corporation for Travel Promotion will begin sorting out in the next four months how it will raise money from the travel and tourism industry to match funds being raised by visa application fees to begin promoting the United States abroad.
Meeting in San Francisco this morning in conjunction with the U.S. Travel Association's International Pow Wow, the board received a subcommittee report on how the corporation would raise money.
Board member Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of the California Travel and Tourism Commission, said the committee would develop a strategy to raise money to match funds that are being collected on $14 fees paid with every visa application by travelers coming to the United States.
Board Chairman Stephen Cloobeck, CEO of Las Vegas-based Diamond Resorts International, said the new visa fees have generated $80 million to date and funds are being added at a rate of about $350,000 a day during the busy summer months. The corporation can't access those funds until the industry provides its match.
Industry matches can be in-kind services or cash, but at least 20 percent of the match must be cash.
For the first fiscal year of operation, which begins in October, the corporation gets a one-time two-for-one match, getting $2 in fee funds for every dollar the industry contributes. The corporation received $10 million in start-up funds.
Beteta said her committee is studying funding models from other organizations that have similar strategies and she will solicit public comments from the industry before making a formal recommendation.
One of the considerations in fund-raising is to determine the role of non-endemic companies -- corporations like Coca Cola and Boeing that aren't technically tourism companies but benefit greatly from their role in the industry.
Responding to an inquiry during the meeting, Cloobeck said the corporation would consider sponsorships, memberships and direct donations. He said it's unclear how much a large corporation like MGM Resorts International or Caesars Entertainment would be expected to contribute, but he said he would call on executives up and down the Strip to solicit contributions.
Cloobeck said the corporation is on track to make a big impact on marketing the country.
"As a board, we have talked about making sure that all of our stakeholders -- all states, all territories, all Visit USA offices, all the tangled and mangled infrastructure that was never put together collaboratively around the world -- will be put together collaboratively," Cloobeck said.
"USA doesn't lose. USA is that 10,000-pound gorilla. And we are marketing ourselves for the first time," he said. "We will make sure that we are highly organized and we are operating as an entrepreneurial corporation.
"The (U.S. Travel Association) and other stakeholders and the government set us up this way. They know that entrepreneurs always win and we get things done quickly and efficiently. We don't spend a lot of bucks doing it because we're all about return on invested capital. So ministries of tourism around the world: Wake up, we're here."
In other business, Cloobeck introduced the corporation's new president and CEO, Jim Evans, formerly an executive with Best Western International, Hyatt Hotels and Jenny Craig. The corporation today approved a resolution giving Evans the authority to operate the company.
Evans said his first job would be to hire a team of professionals to carry out the work of the corporation. He said he's currently seeking a chief marketing officer.
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