Request for Expression of Interest for State Vacation Guide

Purpose

The West Virginia Department of Tourism is soliciting expressions of interest for a vendor to oversee the development, printing, and distribution strategy for the 2024 vacation guide for the State of West Virginia. The vacation guide will serve as the primary fulfillment and informational piece to market West Virginia as a travel destination. The guide should inspire readers to plan trips and assist them as they plan. The successful vendor will be expected to facilitate the entire production process – from design to content creation to printing. Additionally, the successful vendor will be responsible for the development of a distribution strategy for both print and digital forms of the guide.

About the West Virginia Department of Tourism 

The West Virginia Department of Tourism oversees all tourism advertising for the state, operates the 1-800-CALL-WVA telemarketing center, maintains eight welcome centers across the state, and administers a cooperative advertising program for state industry partners.

Mission Statement

The West Virginia Department of Tourism works with private tourism industry partners to build and promote a world-class destination that provides jobs, stimulates investment, grows existing businesses, and promotes a positive image of the state as a place to visit, go to college, live, work, and retire. 

Background

The Department of Tourism has historically released a new vacation guide at the beginning of each year.  The guide is used as the agency’s premier advertising piece for the year, and nearly 450,000 copies are distributed each year through consumer guide requests, visitor center distribution, and by polybag distribution with national publications.  

In recent years, the Department has eliminated all paid advertising and absorbed all costs associated with the guide, in an effort to create a higher-quality guide and to provide an added bonus to partners participating in the state’s cooperative advertising program.  

Scope of Work

  • Provide a research-based strategic framework for the role of a printed vacation guide in the vacation planning cycle.
  • Recommend a distribution strategy for both print and digital versions that aligns with current market trends and West Virginia’s visitor profile data and supports the ongoing marketing campaign.
  • Develop an outline and timeline for the details of the vacation guide, including development and production.
  • Collaborate with the Department on a strategic plan to collect, organize, and share leads from the vacation guide to featured partners.
  • Develop the layout, design, and creative components of the vacation guide which include but are not limited to the following: information about each of the state’s nine travel regions and four seasons, feature stories, and regional stories.  
  • Collaborate with writers and photographers for editorial stories and imagery within the vacation guide.
  • Create an annual strategy for updating photography to keep guides current and modern.
  • Provide guidance and direction to best promote the guide and its content on social media and other digital channels.  
  • Further extend story ideas in the vacation guide by facilitating meetings with relevant travel editors. 

Expectations of Bidder

The successful bidder shall convey a deep understanding and knowledge of the travel and tourism industry in West Virginia and possess extensive experience in magazine-style publication design and editorial content. Bidder shall be adept at providing recommendations on integrating the Almost Heaven brand into the vacation guide’s design and content. The vendor should have sufficient financial stability and be on a solid financial foundation to ensure the vacation guide is produced, printed, and/or distributed. 

Creative Services

The successful bidder shall have the ability to develop comprehensive concepts that are consistent with brand attributes and standards as well as handle all design and production aspects of the guide.

Collaboration

The successful bidder shall collaborate, as appropriate, with the Department of Tourism’s advertising agencies of record to translate brand assets across vacation guide executions.

Proposed Format

Part 1: Statement of Qualifications

A. Agency Overview

  • Provide company legal name, parent company, ownership structure, and contact information for primary contact. 
  • Statement attesting to your agency’s sound financial standing and ability to perform all services outlined. Winning bidder must be a registered vendor with the state of West Virginia in good standing.
  • List the total number of employees, number of employees in West Virginia, and include senior staff and project lead bios. 
  • Will any services or production be outsourced and/or subcontracted to other companies?
  • Do you plan to partner with another agency to fulfill this RFI? If so, please disclose the nature of the relationship and the process in which work will be shared.
  • Explain the primary company location that will be used to support the Department of Tourism’s vacation guide. 
  • If not a West Virginia vendor, how would your company logistically service this account in Charleston?  What tools would you use to stay organized?

B. Agency Capabilities

  • Describe your process for researching, developing, and creating a vacation guide that meets the client’s strategy, goals, and objectives.
  • Provide case studies and creative samples for at least two current vacation guides or visitor guides developed and produced by your agency. 

C. References

  • Provide contact information for two current clients and two former clients that the Department of Tourism may contact. If possible, please include travel and tourism industry clients as references. For each reference, please indicate the following:
    • Company name
    • Contact name and title
    • Contact phone number and email address
    • Type of service provided
    • Length of relationship
    • Brief explanation of relationship dissolution, if applicable

D. Conflict of Interest

  • Please list any existing clients that could potentially conflict with the interests of the Department of Tourism. 
  • A conflict will not necessarily disqualify a bidder; however, the Department of Tourism reserves the right to exclude a proposal from consideration at any time. 

E. Tourism Expertise

  • Describe any prior experience with the West Virginia tourism industry and knowledge of the travel industry. 
  • If applicable, indicate the number of years and nature of experience in the tourism industry, and provide case studies and samples of creative select work done with travel destinations. 

Part 2: Proposal

A. Strategy & Plan

  • The vendor should provide an overarching strategy for the editorial and advertising content of the vacation guide and a distribution strategy to maximize the effectiveness of the guide.
  • The vendor should outline a content plan to include each of the state’s nine travel regions and West Virginia’s four seasons through feature stories, regional stories, and the usage and placement of photos and other complementary graphics.
  • The vendor should demonstrate how the Almost Heaven brand can be incorporated and how the guide will help position West Virginia as a more competitive vacation destination. 
  • The vendor should specify the recommended number of pages, page size, and paper for the guide.
  • The vendor should also present a plan on how to transform the printed guide into a consumer-friendly digital product that works well on desktop, tablet, and mobile. 
  • The vendor provides strategy recommendations for how to promote the guide on social media and other digital channels.
  • The vendor should detail a plan for extending story ideas from the printed vacation guide by facilitating meetings with relevant travel editors.

B. Creative Samples

  • The vendor should provide sample cover pages and text pages that demonstrate the quality, type, and style.
  • The vendor should provide creative samples for a two-page editorial spread.
  • The vendor should provide a creative sample for the digital version of the guide, including look and proposed functionality.

C. Timeline

The vendor should submit a proposed timeline for production, distribution, and completion of the vacation guide and its estimated date for delivery.

D. Distribution

The vendor should provide a detailed strategy and plan on how to distribute the printed guide statewide, nationally, and nationally, as well as a plan to effectively distribute the digital guide online to consumers.

Selection Process

The selection process will be in accordance with W. Va. Code § 5B-2I-4(f), which provides: 

The Department of Tourism may engage and retain one or more advertising and marketing agencies, consultants, enterprises, firms, or persons, as deemed by the secretary, in his or her sole discretion, necessary or advisable to assist the department in carrying out its powers and duties as set forth in this article. In the procurement of advertising agencies, consultants, enterprises, or persons, from time to time, estimated to cost $250,000 or more, the secretary shall encourage such advertising and marketing agencies, consultants, enterprises, firms, or persons to submit an expression of interest, which shall include a statement of qualifications, including anticipated concepts and proposed advertising, marketing and advertising campaigns. All potential contracts shall be announced by public notice published as a Class II legal advertisement in compliance with §59-3-3 of this code. A committee of three to five representatives of the department or the Tourism Advisory Council, as selected by the secretary, shall evaluate the statements of qualifications and other materials submitted by interested firms and select three firms which, in their opinion, are best qualified to perform the desired service. The committee shall then rank, in order of preference, the three firms selected and shall commence scope of service and price negotiations with the first-ranked firm. If the department is unable to negotiate a satisfactory contract with the first-ranked firm, at a fee determined to be fair and reasonable, price negotiations with the firm of second choice shall commence. Failing accord with the second-ranked firm, the committee shall undertake price negotiations with the third-ranked firm. If the department is unable to negotiate a satisfactory contract with any of the selected firms, the office shall select additional firms in order of their competence and qualifications and it shall continue negotiations in accordance with this section until an agreement is reached.

If the procurement of the services is estimated by the secretary to cost less than $250,000, the department shall conduct discussions with three or more firms solicited on the basis of known or submitted qualifications for the assignment prior to the awarding of any contract: Provided, That if a judgment is made that special circumstances exist and that seeking competition is not practical, the department may select a firm on the basis of previous satisfactory performance and knowledge of the department’s needs. After selection, the department and selected firm shall develop the scope of desired services and negotiate a contract. 

(see also W. Va. CSR § 144-3-5)

Timeline

The schedule for the process will be as follows:

Written Questions Submitted – January 2, 2023Questions must be received by 5 p.m. EST. All questions must be submitted electronically to Richard.L.Cravens@wv.gov.

Written Answers Provided – January 6, 2023 

Download the Written Answers

Expression of Interest Deadline – 5 p.m. EST, January 27, 2023

Selection and Negotiation Process anticipated to begin February 3, 2023

Submissions

Expressions of interest may be submitted electronically to Richard.L.Cravens@wv.gov. All proposals must be received by 5 p.m. EST on January 27, 2023.