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Jax Daily Record Friday, Mar. 3, 201712:00 PM EST

Deadline extended for tourism marketing RFP

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Two more weeks.

The Duval County Tourist Development Council on Thursday pushed back its deadline to approve a request for proposals for marketing and promoting the area as a destination for leisure travelers, conventions and groups.

The group has been meeting weekly to develop a new format for the contract that will begin Oct. 1 when Visit Jacksonville’s contract expires.

Previously bid out as one agreement, the new format comprises distinct components of work:

• A tourist bureau plan that includes operating visitor welcome centers, publishing a printed visitors guide and developing and maintaining a database of hotels, motels, restaurants, entertainment venues, attractions and events.

• A marketing plan

• A convention promotion and sales plan

The council worked on the specific language for the requirements of each component as well as individual scoring matrices.

Each of the three components will be scored up to 90 points for the written response, 10 points for an in-person interview and up to 10 bonus points if an applicant responds to more than one component.

Each component will be separate to give the option to respond to one or more, said City Council President Lori Boyer, chair of the tourism council.

Other elements of the request for bids will include experience in each field, financial stability and whether the bidder maintains an office in Jacksonville.

Each component will have a separate budget — about $300,000 annually for the tourism bureau, $2.2 million for marketing and $2 million for convention promotion and sales.

Those budgets could fluctuate, as the amount available is based on a portion of the 6 percent hospitality tax assessed on hotel bills.

Occupancy and room rates have been rising for about two years and that’s projected to continue, which would yield more money for marketing and sales.

A new element that will be part of the tourism marketing plan is a database that will be constantly updated. It will provide not only location and contact information, but also data such as room rates and categories of amenities and attractions.

“We want a stranger who looks at the database to be able to evaluate choices based on price and service,” said Boyer.

Board member M.G. Orender suggested access by smartphone might be the solution to ensure that every hotel, restaurant and attraction is listed.

“Whoever is going to do this job is going to have to come up with an amazing app,” he said.

“We’re trying to seek innovation,” said City Council member Greg Anderson.

Greg Pease, chief of the procurement division, said the document will be ready for the board’s final review by March 15.

The bid opportunity will be advertised beginning April 15 and responses will be due by May 3.

Applicants will be scored and interviewed in May and June, followed by contract negotiations with the selected bidder(s).

“We have plenty of time to have something in place,” Boyer said.

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