Fix VisitDallas, But Don't Nuke the City's Effective Tourism Marketing Organization

The Dallas Morning News' editorial board recently called for an outside investigation of VisitDallas. Perhaps that idea has merit; an objective investigation would report not just areas of deficiency, but also the accomplishments of the former visitor's bureau.VisitDallas is not a department of the city. It is an independent marketing organization that is funded from room occupancy taxes and fees collected from visitors who stay in hotels located in Dallas. Those hotel tax revenues are not available to fix potholes or for other purposes that several City Council members and mayoral candidates seem to suggest. Under Texas law, expenditures of city Hotel Occupancy Tax revenues must "directly enhance and promote tourism and the convention and hotel industry."In 2003, I was recruited to investigate and clean up the mess at the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, and I spent three years reorganizing the board oversight, financial reporting, staffing and marketing direction of what became VisitDallas. The situation is not even remotely similar to the current problems at VisitDallas.The recent city audit identified numerous issues that could have and should have been handled differently, but it did not uncover a scandal or systemic misuse of funds. In fact, much of the criticism was leveled at the city department that was responsible for oversight of the contract with VisitDallas. It is naïve to suggest the city should run its own convention and tourism marketing; no major city in America tries to manage convention and tourism marketing as a city department because it doesn't work.Phillip Jones is, and should be, a highly paid hospitality marketing executive. His compensation package is market-driven and is in line with those in other top destinations. Approximately 20 percent of his compensation is incentive pay based on the achievement of specified goals, and is not guaranteed.  Continue reading...

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