^
Keep Dallas Observer Free
4

Despite Email Deluge, Dallas Re-Ups With VisitDallas

Dallas' Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center
Dallas' Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center
Dallas Visitor Bureau

In the end, VisitDallas did enough. Wednesday afternoon, after months of back and forth between the city and the agency charged with marketing it, the Dallas City Council signed off on a five-year contract extension with VisitDallas by a 12-1 vote.

The council's vote came after a days-long email campaign from residents begging city leaders to head in a different direction.

"VisitDallas, the DBA for the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, has a long history of misusing taxpayer funds, creating misleading reports, promoting tourisms for cities other than Dallas, and has always been incompetently led under previous leaders who were all forced to resign due to financial irregularities and whose current CEO faced similar issues in Pittsburgh," the form email read.

"With COVID-19 decimating tourism and conferences for the foreseeable future, VisitDallas presented misleading information to the council by grossly over representing the number of conventions set to occur in Dallas over the next several months. Because of this, they glossed over the fact its primary funding source, Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) revenue, will be at or near $0."

Every council member save North Dallas representative Cara Mendelsohn disagreed. The agency, in trouble since being the subject of a scathing city audit in January 2019, had made sufficient changes to deserve a new contract. The audit found that the agency failed to account appropriately for how it spent $30 million in hotel occupancy tax revenue and Dallas tourism public improvement district cash in addition to failing to make payments it's supposed to make to the city for improvements to the Convention Center.

"As I continue to look at this new contract, I think 95% of what we were asking for is what we got," council member Omar Narvaez said.

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

Narvaez praised VisitDallas for hiring a new CEO, reducing the size of its board and giving the city greater oversight over its operations. Narvaez was comforted, he said, because the new contract between the city and the agency allows for a full review of convention and event services three years into the deal.

"I'm going to give my vote. It's not the most exciting vote I'm going to take, but I'm willing to give you all a chance. (If you haven't gotten it right in year three) then we're going to have a much different conversation," he said.

Mendelsohn said the contract was a raw deal for Dallas residents because it allows businesses and municipalities from outside the city to buy into VisitDallas services.

"VisitDallas should be Dallas only," she said. "It's ironic that we've been talking about Dallas-first for procurement but we allow VisitDallas to put anyone willing to buy this membership in the forefront (of its marketing materials). We are changing VisitDallas to become VisitDallas or anywhere else that advertises with us."

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.