Dallas CVB CEO Phillip Jones Explains How the Agenda Was Set for Last Week's PCMA

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Sam Merten
DCVB CEO Phillip Jones
So, back to that question of: Why did the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau not put Fair Park on the convention planners' to-see list last week? Yesterday afternoon, I spoke with DCVB CEO Phillip Jones, who had plenty to say on the subject. But, long story short, this was a convention planners' convention, not a tourism junket, and those 3,000-plus came to Dallas to see the convention center, the site of the future Omni hotel next door and to talk business all the day and all of the night.

"The primary purpose of this meeting was to update meeting planners' perception of Dallas and downtown," Jones says. "I've been here five years, and one of the first thing I heard then and still hear around the country is that there's nothing to do downtown. With the new convention center hotel and new improvements in the Arts District and the Joule and other ongoing improvements, we wanted ot show that off."

After the jump, our Q&A -- as well as the promotional brochure DCVB made for the Professional Convention Management Association attendees, which came with a three-day Dallas Area Rapid Transit light-rail pass.

A lot of folks, including some who work at Fair Park, wondered how the city could leave Fair Park out of the mix last week. After all, there are myriad spaces on that beautiful piece of city-owned property that could be used for meetings -- like, oh, Hall of State, for starters.

A couple of things. We certainly featured Fair Park prominently in all our promotional materials and events. Case in point: The opening event at the convention center. We had different areas of Dallas and North Texas, and there was an entire section on the State Fair -- the fun house, the food, a variety of activities you could experience at Fair Park. And we worked with DART to put together a brochure that featured all the areas of Dallas, and on the cover was the light rail stop at Fair Park. Inside, it features Fair Park, and we gave everyone a free pass to promote the Green Line. I don't want anyone to be under the mistaken impression we didn't feature Fair Park.

That said, the primary purpose of this meeting was to update meeting planners' perception of Dallas and downtown. I've been here five years, and one of the first thing I heard then and still hear around the country is that there's nothing to do downtown. With the new convention center hotel and new improvements in the Arts District and the Joule and other ongoing improvements, we wanted ot show that off, and that included the new venues in the Arts District, where we had the closing-night event.

As an aside, just so you'll know, we gave the host committee several opportunities to choose from for the closing night event, and one was Fair Park. They went with the Arts District because they wanted to promote the new venues and restaurants in and around there.

Who's on the host committee?

Fifteen members from the hotel, attractions and meeting and event community. And, look, this would be completely different if we were hosting [U.S. Travel Association's International] Pow Wow for buyers of leisure product. This is a meeting and convention for people who plan meetings and conventions. They want to know: How many square feet are there in downtown ballrooms? How far is it from the convention center to the new convention center hotel or the Hyatt? Where's the new aloft and how many rooms can we add to the buy? It's nitty-gritty details for meeting and convention planners.

In addition, they're interested in things for convention and meeting attendees to see and do. I happen to know several of the meeting planners visited The Women's Museum. They did get exposure to Fair Park through the video that you have featured prominently.

OK, but you keep talking about downtown and the Green Line and Fair Park in pamphlets and videos. Fact is, wouldn't it have been beneficial to get folks to the Victory Station, put 'em on a DART train and show them how quickly they can get from downtown to Deep Ellum to Fair Park, where there sits the most beautiful collection of meeting spaces imaginable? And, hey, we own those too.

You make a valid point, except the fact is there was a limited amount of time for Dallas to showcase the various assets. They're also here for educational sessions. In fact, their primary reason is for those educational sessions. Our official opportunities were the opening event and the closing event, and we took full advantage of that. That's why we did the brochure.

The good news for all of us is, from the indications I've gotten in e-mails -- which say things like "best PCMA ever," "the city showed well," "we'll look at bringing our meetings to Dallas" -- it's mission accomplished. At the end of the day if we had four full days, we would have done shown off everything, but we were focused on showing off the core of the city and taking DART from downtown and stopping at the convention center. A lot of folks were surprised at how much had chaged in the 18 years since we hosted PCMA. This is the premier meeting planners' event. They kick off their meeting in January, and it's very serious business. They book $18 billion a year in business, and these are serious folks at senior levels. These folks won't bypass the educational sessions. They're doing business, and we wanted to make sure we had what they needed as their host city. This is their meeting. Dart

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