When I last interviewed Jim Evans, he was president and CEO of Best Western International. It was late 2001, and what struck me the most at the time when I visited his offices in Phoenix was his accessibility to his staff. As we sat and talked, colleagues stopped by to chat informally and to exchange ideas with their top executives. The more we spoke, the more I realized Evans’ open-door policy extended way beyond his physical office; he had to handle the fact that Best Western was a 4,000-member hotel association comprised of hotel owners across the globe. Evans did an excellent job at the time of balancing the needs of the members with Best Western standards and for that reason I was delighted to learn that he had been selected as the CEO of the new Corporation for Travel Promotion, which will lead the first-ever marketing campaign for the United States in international markets.
The hotel industry should be delighted that someone from their sector has been selected to head this new entity, but what is even more gleeful is that this country will soon be marketing itself across the globe with a potential budget of $200 million. (Part of the new CTP requires that private industry contribute to the fund, so get ready to contribute.)
As I write this, news of Evans’ appointment is just a day old and he hadn’t yet given interviews to the media. We do know that the corporation will start receiving its funding when its fiscal year begins this October 1 and that the goal is to start marketing by the end of the year. Evans still has to build a staff and he’ll have to create a process for getting input from the 50 states on their marketing needs and desires. In the end, however, he’ll have to make resolute decisions to get the new marketing efforts out the door. After all, the U.S. has been waiting a long time for this.
Evans has a lot of work in front of him, but he’s got experience with starting up organizations; his most recent efforts include launching Ardent Hotel Advisors. And that’s exactly what the Corporation for Travel Promotion is -- a start-up. I was reassured that Evans’ door will be wide open for input from the hotel industry, when, as a member of the audience at the World Travel and Tourism Council in Las Vegas in May, he stood up in front of 1,000 members of an international audience and asked the panelists of hotel executives on stage what suggestions they had for him as he started his new role. This occurred before he’d even formally started his new job.
Stephen Holmes, chairman and CEO of Wyndham Worldwide, suggested he find himself a good marketing team as his first step, while Hubert Joly, president and CEO of Carlson, said the perception of getting a visa to enter the United States needs to be fixed. “The perception is worse than reality,” Joly told Evans. Arne Sorenson, president and COO of Marriott International, who graces our cover this issue, told Evans that the marketing message should be kept simple.
Something tells me this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
We welcome Jim Evans to the helm of this exciting new venture and congratulate Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, for his efforts over the past five years to get the Corporation for Travel Promotion launched. I wasn’t sure I’d ever see the U.S. get a marketing effort going in my lifetime, but we’re clearly on a path to make that happen, and soon.