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June 8, 2016
11:30 a.m.
MINUTES OF MEETING
BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING
THE WOODLANDS CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU

 
The Board of Directors for The Woodlands Convention & Visitors Bureau (TWCVB) of Montgomery County, Texas held their Board Meeting on June 8, 2016 at The Woodlands Township located at 2801 Technology Forest Boulevard, The Woodlands, Montgomery County, Texas, 77381 at 11:30 a.m. The roll was called and those in attendance were:


 
Present: Gordy Bunch, Chairman  
  Jeff Long, Vice Chairman  
  Ann Snyder, Secretary/Treasurer  
  J.J. Hollie, Director  
  Don Norrell, Director  
  Greg Parsons, Director  
Absent: Fred Domenick, Director
Staff Present: Nick Wolda, TWCVB President; Bret Strong, TWCVB Legal Counsel; Emilie Harris, TWCVB Brand Development Manager; Alie Broussard, TWCVB Convention Development Manager; Danielle Gatlin, TWCVB Administrative Assistant; Mariana Almanza, TWCVB Intern; Monique Sharp, The Woodlands Township Assistant General Manager Finance & Administration; John Powers, The Woodlands Township Assistant General Manager of Community Services; Matt Jones, The Woodlands Township Help Desk Analyst
Attendees: Jamie Sims, Visitor Services, Speak on Agenda item; Jayme LeGros, The Atkins Group, Presenter; Catherine Higgins, Strong Firm, Intern with The Strong Firm; Simon Boddison, Texas Rush Soccer Club, Speak on Agenda item; Shannon Wilson, The Cynthia Woods Mitchel Pavilion, Attendee
             
   1. Pledge of Allegiance;

Chairman Bunch led the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States flag and the Pledge to the Texas flag.
             
   2. Call to order and adoption of Agenda;
             
  Motion by Secretary/Treasurer Ann Snyder, seconded by Vice Chairman Jeff Long to adopt the agenda.


  Vote: 7 - 0 Passed
 
Other: Director Fred Domenick (ABSENT)
  Chairman Bunch called the meeting to order at 11:34 a.m. and called for the adoption of the Agenda for this meeting that was developed and duly posted as required by law.
             
   3. Public Comment;

Simon Boddison, Texas Rush Soccer Club signed up to speak at public comment regarding agenda item number six. The Board approved him to speak during his agenda item. No Motion is needed.
             
   4. Consider and approve Minutes from the May 4, 2016 Regular Board Meeting;
             
  Motion by Director Greg Parsons, seconded by Director J.J. Hollie to approve Minutes from May 4, 2016 Regular Board Meeting.


  Vote: 6 - 0 Passed
 
Other: Director Fred Domenick (ABSENT)
             
   5. Consider and approve Financial Report through  April 2016;
             
  Motion by Director Don Norrell, seconded by Secretary/Treasurer Ann Snyder to approve CVB Financial Report through April 2016.



  Vote: 6 - 0 Passed
 
Other: Director Fred Domenick (ABSENT)
  Chairman Bunch called Monique Sharp to present the CVB Financial Report through April 2016. The revenue total year to date budget was $774,000 with actual revenues for that period being $578,000 resulting in an unfavorable revenue balance of $197,000, mostly resulting from operating transfers which is $149,000 unfavorable. The 2% of the Hotel Supplemental Tax is $75,000 unfavorable for the first four months of 2016. As the year goes on the favorable expenditure variance will decrease. Director Norrell clarified that starting in 2016 the ending fund balance surplus will not increase overall in the CVB Budget because the revenues and expenses are just balancing from 2016 forward and will stay constant at $1,970,000.
             
   6. Receive, consider and act upon sponsorship request from Texas Rush Soccer Club;

President Wolda called on Simon Boddison to speak on a sponsorship request from Texas Rush Soccer Club. Texas Rush is asking for a $10,000 partnership. The club is home to 3,250 kids ranging in age from 3-18. There is a large scope of travel to youth soccer markets. Mr. Boddison explained that Texas Rush tournaments bring multiple teams from outside of The Woodlands area for a 48 hour period with need of hotel rooms. Texas Rush, last year used 1616 hotel rooms. Texas Rush has several tournaments throughout the year that bring players and families to The Woodlands area. Texas Rush is predicting that for the 2016 year they will need approximately 1500 rooms for league play. For 2017 predicted rooms is expected to be 3,600. This will be marketed through email, website, social media and contact with clubs and teams. Through meeting with The CVB, Texas Rush Soccer is now doing business with Embassy Suites and Drury Inn to be host hotels to market to the clubs and teams. Chairman Bunch expressed concerns about the businesses listed on the report not being actually in The Woodlands. President Wolda explained that of the 1616 rooms reported booked only 345 rooms are actually in The Woodlands Township boundaries during the Rush Cup in August. With youth soccer travel there is a price point that they work with ranging from $119 to $149. The hoteliers only give a block of 24 rooms so the program needs to use multiple hotels to cover the families. The league play runs Fall and Spring and is the primary need for hotel rooms. This is the time that the organization is expecting the need for the 1500 room nights. Chairman Bunch explained that the hotel tax that the organization is bringing in is less than the amount of money that they have requested. Mr. Boddison expressed that the CVB will be added to their marketing with co-branding. Secretary/Treasurer Snyder asked how many of the current participants are from The Woodlands and Mr. Boddison responded that 75% of the league lives in the area. Chairman Bunch expressed concerns that the hotel price point is too high for a youth club. The Board would never consider paying out more than they can collect from hotel tax and asked that if Texas Rush has done research on the hotel properties to see how many of the hotels will fall into the club’s price point range. Mr. Boddison explained that he has reached out to most of the hotels that range from $100. – $150. Director Norrell finds it encouraging that three or four years ago the Township had invested in sports fields to create the capacity to have these types of events and is glad to see that they are able to grow the way they have. Director Parsons suggested working with the CVB staff to go out to work with hotels to find more hotels that will be able to work in their price point to bring more hotel nights into The Woodlands footprint. The Board is open to working with Texas Rush and feels that working together will aid in moving the rooms over to The Woodlands. Director Parsons also mentioned that at certain times of the year the hotels in the area do drop to the requested price point. Chairman Bunch expressed that there is merit to tracking the seasons of the year that the tournaments happen and to look at the hotel price points at that time. Director Long asked questions of the staff including how many hotels are in The Woodlands area and how many are in the clubs price point. President Wolda explained that The Woodlands has 14 hotels and 30% of the rooms meet the price point. At this time the Board has declined the sponsorship but is requesting the CVB staff to work with Texas Rush and to bring this back when the numbers are residing in The Woodlands Township boundaries. No Motion at this time.
 
             
   7. Receive and consider a report from The Woodlands Marathon;

Chairman Bunch introduced William Fowlkes to present a report from The Woodlands Marathon. The 2016 event raised $130,000 dollars with a charity challenge and $27,000 in additional donations. The expo went from a two day expo to a one day expo this year due to booking complications. The Marriot was booked this year and the expo had to be moved to Legends Sports Complex. The Woodlands Marathon prefers to keep the event within a 4 mile radius keeping everything in walking distance. The one day expo this year took in 9,000 attendees. There is a host venue agreement on the table with The Woodlands Township which includes potentially hosting the Health and Fitness Expo at the new multipurpose center at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. Race day activities brought 25,000 in attendance which included 15 – 17,000 people having about 13% stay overnight in The Woodlands/Shenandoah hotels. The Marathon has not approached Shenandoah for sponsorship because they want to keep the focus in The Woodlands. Currently the plan is to continue working with The CVB staff on how to extend the participants’ stay to Friday through Sunday. The event averages 7,500 participants with 30% traveling 60 miles or further. The age group is mainly 25-45 years old. This event is a Boston Qualifier and is the second fastest marathon in the state of Texas. Plans going forward are to market to the North because they might have snow on the ground at the time of the event. Mr. Fowlkes read his social media comments to the Board of Directors. This year they worked with the CVB on the race guide and going forward will be working in unison with the CVB. Mr. Fowlkes came today to present what they are currently doing and ask how they can add a piece to their E-Newsletter to connect a welcome to The Woodlands with their database of 30,000+. Chairman Bunch offered the same meeting type opportunity to connect the hoteliers and the CVB with The Woodlands Marathon to build room nights. Mr. Fowlkes is going to conduct an economic study every other year to be able to track the impact on The Woodlands and be able to report back. Secretary/Treasurer Snyder congratulated Mr. Fowlkes for building The Woodlands Marathon into a premiere event. No Motion necessary.
             
   8. Receive, consider and act upon a Sponsorship proposal from the Texas Renaissance Festival;
 
             
  Motion by Secretary/Treasurer Ann Snyder, seconded by Director J.J. Hollie to approve sponsorship proposal from the Texas Renaissance Festival.


  Vote: 6 - 0 Passed
 
Other: Director Fred Domenick (ABSENT)
  Chairman Bunch called on Nick Wolda to present a sponsorship proposal from the Texas Renaissance Festival. This was discussed as a sponsorship request last May but needs to be looked at as an advertising request. Travis Bryant has outlined a proposal in the Board Book. The deliverables are very significant because the Texas Renaissance Festival is working with an extensive advertising campaign and budget. They will provide the CVB with tickets to be able to package with hotels. Staff recommendation is that this is a strong advertising play at a cost of $7,500. Secretary/Treasurer Snyder asked about the transportation request. Mr. Wolda explained that Mr. Bryant would like to request the Park and Ride busses but that this is a request for The Woodlands Township. Vice Chairman Long said that the value to be assessed is the exposure of the CVB and Township. It is difficult to see the actual value of this and Director Long would like a comparison level of dollars returned. In looking at the 2017 Budget the CVB spends a substantial amount of money on media buys whether that is TV, marketing ads, print, etc. This year could be tracked to make the determination on the future. Chairman Bunch explained that the CVB would be included as a partner in all of the advertising to drive more hotel nights to The Woodlands. This will be a one year agreement. Director Norrell asked how the CVB would be able to track the hotel usage during this period. Mr. Wolda explained that with packaging and partnering with the hotels this would be trackable in the same way as Ironman, The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival and other events. Chairman Bunch felt the marketing on the Texas Renaissance Festival website will have discounted rates showing while guests are purchasing tickets encouraging hotel bookings.
             
   9. Receive and consider an update on the Waterway Cruiser Operation;

Chairman Bunch explained that the update from Waterway Events has been handed out and summarized it "When the weather is nice, they are happy. When it rains they are sad." They are currently booking private events and are going to host a Board event soon. No Motion necessary.
             
   10. Receive, consider and act upon request from The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce regarding Visitor Services;
 
             
  Motion by Vice Chairman Jeff Long, seconded by Director Don Norrell to approve request from The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce regarding Visitors Services.





  Vote: 6 - 0 Passed
 
Other: Director Fred Domenick (ABSENT)
  Chairman Bunch called on Nick Wolda to explain the request from The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce regarding Visitors Services. Mr. Wolda explained that there has been an update to the executive summary about the shortfall in the funding for November and December by The Woodlands Mall and invited Director Hollie to explain this further. Director Hollie explained that they are asking for an increase of contribution from the CVB of $1,000 for the month of November and December, $2,000 total, allowing Visitors Services to continue to operate on a normal schedule through the end of the year with that being their busiest time. Going forward in 2017 the hours and staffing will be cut back. Secretary/Treasurer Snyder highlighted that it is commendable that The Woodlands Mall is giving the Visitors Center the use of the kiosk at no additional cost giving the CVB and The Chamber visibility in the community.
             
   11. Receive and consider final layout and formatting VisitTheWoodlands.com website;

Chairman Bunch called on Nick Wolda who introduced Jayme LeGros to come to the podium. Ms. LeGros spoke about the work the agency and the CVB have been doing in the past months. There has been a complete rebuild of the website moving from a directory listing type of site to a more content driven site. The new site is very graphic and image driven. The navigation is on the left side leaving real estate on the home page for special event promotion as well as seasonal promotions. Scrolling down the page shows the events and promotions that will be featured from the site, pulling from the event calendar data base and the CRM component integrated from the new site. Custom itineraries for this site based on various audience segments and research that has been done recently has shown that developing very family friendly, foodie, outdoors, health and wellness itineraries will specifically fit The Woodlands audiences. The bottom of the page will pull in the social medial chatter about The Woodlands. In addition, there will be a blog launched. This will be able to be filtered by categories, tags and key words to be able to reach various related content. Next steps, this is the final two months of website development and currently all of the content for the site and listings pages are being rewritten. In working with the CVB team the agency will be rolling approvals through all of that content development as it is migrated to that new site. July, there will be quality assurance and testing The agency is working with the CVB team to demo the site to be sure it is fluid and ready to be launched the last week of July or the first week of August. Director Parsons asked if the site will have the ability to link to booking engines to directly book to hotels. Ms. LeGros explained that it is available but that a single site would need to be chosen such as Expedia, aRes or Jack Rabbit. Chairman Bunch asked if these booking engines will be able to focus in on The Woodlands footprint. Ms. LeGros commented that these engines are a shopping tool more than a booking tool. Chairman Bunch believes this will be a good measureable tool to add to the CVB site if it is not already added. President Wolda suggested adding that to the hotel agenda when the CVB meets with hotel properties. Chairman Bunch asked if there is a version of a booking engine that can be added for events when the CVB partners up for events such as The Woodlands Marathon or Texas Rush. Ms. LeGros said that it is and the different booking engines allow for filtering systems to be "housing" bureaus for events packaging at the time. No motion is necessary on this item.
 
             
   12. Receive, consider and act upon final proposal for The Woodlands CVB Mobile Concierge APP; Ms. Jayme LeGros remained at the podium to speak on this item. She explained that the Concierge App is the agency’s approach at an app for the CVB. Approaching the next initiative staff and agency are asking for Board direction. There are several considerations in building this app with the biggest benefit being achieving some sort of App to enhance the experience of the visitor while they are in destination as well as helping to create repeat visitors to The Woodlands. Currently there are two options that are at the forefront. The first is the Concierge App which would be a custom App providing real time chats between tourist and an administrative team member. Information capture and Opt-In opportunities will provide the ability to be able to push back information to them. This information would become searchable and updateable for other users. This App would be for both Android and Apple phones to reach all users. Option two is the Destination App which will allow users to discover all there is to know about a place. It also allows push notifications and drives traffic to local businesses. This App also allows for integrations with third party data sources such as Yelp and will support both Android and Apple. In looking at a cost benefit analysis the first App costs about $15,000, benefitting the CVB because it is unique to The Woodlands giving the first class service that you receive when you visit The Woodlands. The second option will be working with a third party company and this App will cost between $14,000 to $30,000 in the first year, requiring a two year commitment upfront with an ongoing recurring cost of $7,000- $15,000. The Atkins Group would also have charges to the CVB for consulting and implementation time. This App establishes a platform solution to continue improvement and is easy to manage and maintain content through their CMS (Content Management Systems). The Concierge App would include educating the audience on how to use the App. This would also take staff time to monitor and answering the questions in almost real time which will have to be monitored in the window of the work day. Chairman Bunch is concerned about how this App could be staffed enough to make this relevant. Another option Chairman Bunch would like to look at is accessing The Woodlands Township’s 311 App to use similarly for the CVB. Ms. LeGros pointed out that App’s are tough because you have to encourage people to download them, access them, and keep them open to access the push notifications. Director Norrell expressed concerns about the Concierge App as well. He sees the benefit of the Destination App and is interested in the 311 option. Director Hollie agrees also that the Destination App is the optimal choice. The Woodlands CVB attorney Brett Strong expressed concerns about the speed of the answer that the staff would be able to give. He warns that it will be difficult to man and he has seen with past clients where this has not worked. Secretary/ Treasurer Snyder agreed with the other Directors. Ms. LeGros highlights that on the Concierge App that it can evolve to send out prepopulated answers as it grows. Director Parsons pointed out that the App’s will all have to be marketed adding to the fees involved in the App. Chairman Bunch asked about a demo from the Blue Bridge DMO can offer and at the same time take a look into The Woodlands 311 to be able to make a fair decision going forward. Chairman Bunch suggested possibly calling a Special Board Meeting to see this demo or using the next regular meeting scheduled if there is time to allocate. No motion is necessary on this item.
 
             
   13. Receive and consider initial findings from the 2016 Brand Sentiment Research;

Agenda item 13 is deferred.
 
             
   14. Receive, consider and act upon sending 2017 Budget Plan to The Woodlands Township;
 
  President Wolda explained that the budget was presented in May and that it will be very similar to the budget for 2016. The 2017 budget does provide flexibility. The next step is to send this budget plan to The Woodlands Township Board of Directors. Chairman Bunch asked about additional staffing positions that have been discussed. With the new focus and initiatives, President Wolda’s current role is split with The Woodlands Township and the CVB. Chairman Bunch presented the concept of bringing in a CVB Assistant Director that will be CVB only oriented and fully focused on CVB initiatives. President Wolda agreed that The Woodlands needs to be recognized nationally such as Palm Springs, Savannah and Charleston. President Wolda firmly believes that what is good for the CVB is good for The Woodlands Township. Director Norrell requested that the title be focused on Chief Operating Officer as opposed to Executive Director. Chairman Bunch agreed that the name can be decided on based on the industry. Director Parsons asked how the salary would be distributed. Monique Sharp explained that this would be an employee of the Township so this would need to be submitted as a Budget Initiative, with a recommendation from the CVB Board. The other option would be to submit it with the 2017 Budget Plan. Director Norrell explained that this would need to be presented as a Budget Initiative. Chairman Bunch explained that this new employee would be funded through the supplemental hotel tax. With the CVB having gone through so much redefining in infrastructure, websites, rebranding and more, Chairman Bunch does not want to fall short on staffing. Director Norrell asked that as H.R. goes out to look into this, the position being created will be a second in command.
 
             
  Motion by Chairman Gordy Bunch, seconded by Director J.J. Hollie to approve sending the 2017 Budget Plan to The Woodlands Township to include the new second in command position at an expense to be determined by staff review of peer organizations.


  Vote: 5 - 0 Passed
 
Other: Director Don Norrell (ABSTAIN)
  Director Fred Domenick (ABSENT)
             
   15. Receive and consider The Woodlands Convention &Visitors Bureau Department Update for May 2016;

President Wolda explained that Brand Development Manager, Emilie Harris has developed The Woodlands Convention & Visitors Bureau Department Update which is a monthly update on hotel tax and trending. No motion is necessary on this item.
 
             
   16. Recess to Executive Session to discuss matters relating to real property pursuant to §551.072, Texas Government Code; deliberation of economic development negotiations pursuant to §551.087, Texas Government Code; discuss personnel matters pursuant to §551.074, Texas Government Code; and to consult with the Corporation's attorney pursuant to §551.071, Texas Government Code;
             
   17. Reconvene in public session; No Executive Session for this Board Meeting.
             
   18. Staff Initiative Reports;

President Wolda asked Emilie Harris to come to the podium. Kassie Freeman from HiSugarplum! was in The Woodlands from May 20, 2016 – May 22, 2016. Travel writer Kristan Finan of the Austin American Statesman is currently in town, she toured the Pavilion and her child was able to play with the Symphony. Special thanks to The Pavilion for making that a success. Ms. Finan is staying at The Westin and has passes to The Oasis today. The CVB is grateful to Director Parsons and his team at those hotels for making sure she has a great time. Wine and Food week is this week. The CVB had a back page ad in the Wine and Food Week program and the sponsorship included option to have a gift included in VIP attendee bags. The CVB is looking forward to receiving the Surveys data. Advertising Co-Op Campaign is wrapping up and was sent to the printer at noon. These circulations will come out June 18, 2016 and also September 27, 2016. A few of the Co-Op buys are in USA Today. Ms. Harris showed The 2016 Destination Marketing video created by The Atkins Group with staff direction. At the Monday Marketing Committee Meeting, the Brand Sentiment study will be presented. Convention Development Manager, Alie Broussard came to the podium to give a report of Convention Development. This summer there will be three banner ads posted on TripAdvisor.com starting June 1st – August 31st. Once a visitor clicks on the ad they will be directed to the Visitors page on VisitTheWoodlands.com. The host agreement for Copa Rayados Internacional Soccer Tournament has been finalized and the next step is to establish sleeping blocks at the hotels. Ms. Broussard had just returned from the Fraternal Executive’s Association Conference in Kansas City, MO on June 3, 2016. There were 180 Executives from Fraternal Associations across the United States. A complete list of attendees was provided to suppliers so this will be loaded into Simpleview, and Ms. Broussard will continue to market The Woodlands to them. Ms. Broussard will be headed to Atlantic City, NJ for the Meeting Professionals International – World Educational Congress on June 11th -14th, 2016. There are expected to be over 1,000 meeting planners in attendance. This is a hosted buyer event, educational conference and tradeshow. Director Norrell asked about what other entities have for their displays. Ms. Broussard explained how her booth is run and ideas from other CVB’s. Secretary/Treasurer Snyder asked what the purpose of the booth is and Ms. Broussard was able to explain that this is about meeting more meeting planners and capturing their names to be able to continue to market to them. Director Norrell is asking about improving visibility at the conferences. Chairman Bunch asked about having Puffy Pine Cone at the conference table. The Board felt it would be easier to keep energy and reach more meeting planners if Ms. Broussard had additional staff to have more presence at these booths. No motion is necessary for this item.
             
   19. President’s Report;

President Wolda expressed that he will be beginning a Travel and Tourism College to aid him in being more involved on a national level. In August, President Wolda will be attending the DMAI Leadership Conference in Minnesota. This will give him the opportunity to be out there on a national level promoting The Woodlands.
             
   20. Board Announcements;

No announcements.
             
   21. Agenda items for next meeting;

To have Blue Bridge demo regarding the Destination App at the next meeting.
             
   22. Adjournment.
             
  Motion by Director Don Norrell, seconded by Secretary/Treasurer Ann Snyder to adjourn.

  Vote: 6 - 0 Passed
 
Other: Director Fred Domenick (ABSENT)
  Adjourned at 1:29 p.m.
___________________________________________                                                     
Dr. Ann Snyder, Secretary/Treasurer
The Woodlands CVB Board of Directors
_____________________
Date

 

    

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