VisitDallas faces more scrutiny during council meeting after audit

The man in charge of bringing convention business to Dallas addressed the city council’s concern about his agency’s spending.

The vice chair of the committee over VisitDallas recommended on Tuesday that the city terminate the contract with the organization that is under fire for not having data to justify its existence while still paying its CEO a $700,000 salary.

VisitDallas is responsible for marketing the city of Dallas for citywide conventions. But a recent audit found the organization’s data showed fewer than half of those conventions were actually living up to their promises to generate 2,500-room nights.

VisitDallas CEO Phillip Jones says the data doesn’t give a true reflection of a convention’s draw to the city since many people use third-party websites to book their hotel rooms instead of going through a convention’s website.

However, Councilman Scott Griggs questioned Jone’s explanation and his salary.

“I’m very concerned about the compensation,” Griggs said. “The data was good enough to show us compensation, but not to show us heads in beds. That’s a very serious concern I have.”

“I want to give everyone a chance to implement these corrective measures and get a report back in May and thereafter to make sure these are being implemented,” said Councilwoman Sandy Greyson.

Greyson was one of three committee members who voted against a motion to terminate VisitDallas’ contract. It is up in September 2020.

The assistant city manager said the city of Dallas has never actually requested bids to see what other organizations could do with the tens of millions of tourism tax dollars.

Jones said his organization only agrees with 40 percent of the auditor’s recommendations.

The committee did vote to have the matter briefed before the full city council. That date has not yet been set.