Feb. 2, 2005 The New York-based M Booth and Associates has taken over the Tourism Department's public relations account effective immediately, Pamela Richards, Tourism commissioner, announced Wednesday in a press release.
The agency replaces Martin Public Relations of Richmond, Va, which had held the contract for nine years.
Luana Wheatley, who handled the Virgin Islands account for Martin Public Relations, said Wednesday that she felt that her agency did their best for the Virgin Islands.
"I can only wish them well," she said of M Booth.
She said Martin Public Relations officially was off the job at the end of November.
The Source reported in August that a change was pending. (See Tourism in Talks to Contract New P.R. Agency").
Steve Bornn, Tourism Department marketing director, said M Booth got the contract through the Property and Procurement Department bidding process as required by Virgin Islands law.
He said M Booth was very well qualified to do the job.
"They have a good reputation in the business," he said.
Calls to Property and Procurement Commissioner Marc Biggs' office were referred to the department's attorney, Lynn Millin. She said she did not sit on the evaluation committee so could not comment on why M Booth was selected.
Beverly Nicholson, V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association president, said Wednesday that she looked forward to working with M Booth.
"We look forward to fresh ideas," she said.
M Booth owner Margaret Booth said the one-year contract was for $1.9 million.
According to the M Booth Web site, she was named by "PR Week" as one of the 50 most powerful women in the public relations field
Booth said the agency's goal was to increase new bookings on all three islands and showcase the unique characteristics of each island.
"We're focusing on the leisure market as well as meetings, incentives and conventions," she said.
She said the agency expects to boost the territory's position as the "America's Caribbean." She noted that the territory provided a welcoming destination that was close to home.
Booth said the agency will also work on marketing the territory via the Internet.
The agency has named Danielle Hylton on St. Croix and Louise Baa-Benjamin on St. Thomas to serve as liaisons and to assist with media hospitality and other supporting activities.
Booth said Joan Bloom and Joan Brower will head the Virgin Islands account.
"They both have such huge experience," Booth said, ticking off a client list that included Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.
The M Booth Web site indicates that Bloom is the senior vice-president/co-director for the agency's travel and lifestyle practice division. She has represented numerous worldwide destinations, travel-related organizations and wine producers. She has a bachelor's degree from Columbia University and a Masters of Business Administration degree from New York University Graduate School of Business.
Brower holds the same title as Bloom. She has created award-winning programs for domestic and international destinations, hotels, cruise lines, airlines, travel industry associations, and Internet travel sites. She holds a bachelor's degree from Goucher College and a Master of Arts degree from George Washington University. She also studied at Harvard University and City of London College.
M Booth's Travel and Lifestyle Group received numerous awards for its excellence in tourism public relations. The agency has a network of 50 affiliate agencies in the largest markets in North America, Europe, Asia, and Latin America.
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