UPDATE 6-10-2020: The City Council approved a 5-year contract with VisitDallas. Voting yes were Chad West, Adam Medrano, Carolyn Arnold, Jaime Resendez, Omar Narvaez, Tennell Atkins, Paula Blackmon, Adam McGough, Lee Kleinman, Jennifer Gates, David Blewett, and Eric Johnson. Voting against: Cara Mendelsohn. Both Adam Bazaldua and Casey Thomas recused themselves.
On June 10, the Dallas City Council votes on whether to renew its contract with VisitDallas, an organization whose mission is to promote Dallas as a business and tourist destination.
The organization has come under scrutiny ever since an audit in 2019 found a host of problems, financial and otherwise, resulting in the resignation of its financial officer as well as its former CEO, Philip Jones. The new CEO is Craig Davis, who told the Dallas Morning News that "VisitDallas is committed to accountability and transparency."
Since he was appointed, the organization has blocked requests for information on basic matters such as salary and benefits, legal bills, and tangible results of their marketing efforts. (VisitDallas Marketing & Communications Director Stephanie Faulk says in an email that, "Our records indicate that all have been resolved, either through us providing the responsive documents or through a ruling by the Texas Attorney General.")
Beyond the accountability issue, there's also the matter of the coronavirus. VisitDallas gets much of its funding from the hotel occupancy tax (HOT), a fee charged to hotel guests. But with COVID-19, hotels are empty these days.
Residents who watch the city council's expenditures have advocated against renewing the contract.
Here are 5 reasons the city council should not renew the contract with VisitDallas:
- On their website, they promote other cities, not just Dallas.
- Their salaries are crazy generous. Davis' starting base salary is $360,000, and many employees earn well over six figures.
- We are in an economic cataclysm and could use that hotel tax revenue on other, more crucial things.
- Their projections seem unrealistic: They assume that dozens of conventions will take place in Dallas in 2020, which does not look promising. In an age of rapidly declining demand for conventions, it makes more sense to reallocate the revenues towards enhancing tourist draws, a permissible alternative use. We need to be encouraging independent tourism, where demand remains strong - not conventions, which are going the way of the dodo bird due to the pandemic and Zoom.
- Who is on the hook for their expenses if there is no HOT tax coming in?