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Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau Bookings
Up 19% Compared to Same Time Last Year

By Suzanne Marta, The Dallas Morning News
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News 

March 21, 2006 - Things are looking up for Dallas' visitor industry, right now and in years to come. 

Bookings by the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau are about 19 percent higher than at this time last year, thanks largely to major trade groups and corporate events that will come here through 2012. 

And local hoteliers say a strengthening economy has translated into rising occupancies and room revenues for the first few months of this year. 
"It's been a wonderful start to the year," said Todd Walther, a general manager at the Dallas Marriott Quorum in Addison. 

Dallas' hotel demand has been slow to recover, compared to other major business centers such as New York and Chicago. But recent gains signal that "we're finally on the rebound," Mr. Walther said. 

Major convention bookings are typically made several years in advance, so recent wins won't pay off immediately. 

Just last week, the visitors bureau announced that it would host the "Super Bowl of Conventions" the American Society of Association Executives & Center of Association Leadership's annual meeting in 2012. 

"It's a huge coup for us," said Phillip Jones, the bureau's chief executive. 

It isn't the size of the meeting that is so important, but who attends. 

The "Super Bowl of Conventions" attracts key decision-makers for the nation's largest associations. Organizers estimate that around 20 percent of the delegates wind up locating a major convention in the host city within five years. 

Mr. Jones said the recent wins signal that Dallas' marketing efforts, which focus on the city's visitor attractions, are paying off. 

"People are finally paying attention to what is happening in Dallas," he said. "We bring them in and they see a downtown skyline dotted with cranes with new, exciting developments like Victory." 

Changes in the visitor bureau's sales team have also paid off. Dallas hired sales representatives in New York and Los Angeles for the first time last year in an effort tap new markets. 

Changes made to the Chicago sales office are also paying off. "We've done more business out of our Chicago office in the last two years than we did in the last 10," Mr. Jones said. 

Local hoteliers have noticed the gains. "We're certainly headed in the right direction," said Michael Lynch, chairman of the Hotel Association of Greater Dallas and general manager for the Embassy Suites Dallas-Love Field. 

Mr. Lynch said convention business isn't yet at the levels enjoyed in the late 1990s, but things are improving. 

Competition from Houston, Denver, Phoenix and other cities has added to the pressure on Dallas to win group business. "We're competing against markets that we never competed against before," Mr. Lynch said. 

And the lack of an attached convention center hotel continues to be a hurdle. A hundred groups have said they won't come to Dallas until the city gets one, Mr. Jones said. 


Bookings by the Dallas convention bureau are about 19 percent ahead of last year. Here are some major wins in the last three months:

  • International Association of Fire Chiefs November 2014 (10,000 guests) 
  • American Society of Association of Executives August 2012 (5,000 to 6,000) 
  • General Services Administration June 2008 (3,000) 
  • National Contract Management Association April 2007 (2,500) 
  • National School Boards Association November 2006* (2,200) (Relocated from New Orleans) 
SOURCE: Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau 


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