To say the year 2016 was big for the city of Dallas would be a gross understatement. The city saw 25.7 million visitors and had record room-night bookings. International travel to Dallas has increased by 33 percent, the second-highest rise of any city in the country. Tourists brought in $7.6 billion to the city and one in 20 jobs is related to the tourism industry.

Philip J. Jones, president and CEO of VisitDallas, is at the helm of this massive tourism ship. “I like to say that if you haven’t been to Dallas in five years, then you haven’t been to Dallas,” Jones says.

Formerly known as Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, VisitDallas has become a juggernaut in the convention game, supporting a city that’s continuing to grow and become ever more appealing to meeting planners. Jones, who has been in the title role for 14 years running, welcomes change with open arms, whether that be the new Dallas Arts District—the largest contiguous art district in the United States—or a new name.

“It’s so much easier to say,” Jones says. “It means so much more to our customers. It tells our story better and maintains the brand equity we have all worked so hard to grow. We also unveiled a new logo that plays off the organization’s existing brand equity while adding color and movement.

“Dallas’ 2016 boost in visitation is a testament to the fact that it is catching on as a domestic and international destination. We’re the latest CityPass destination, and we have a lot to offer business, leisure and family travelers.”

Under Jones’ supervision, Dallas has become quite the destination. The city premiered its first convention center hotel in 2011, the Omni Dallas; VisitDallas now has representatives all over Europe, Australia and South America; and Jones created the first diversity and inclusion department by a destination-management company nationwide.

Jones has sat on countless boards, including AT&T Performing Arts Center, Texas Travel Industry Association and Destination Marketing Association International, and recently ascended to chairman of PCMA’s Education Foundation board of trustees.

Jones previously served as director of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Travel and Tourism Administration in Washington, D.C., and as secretary of Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.

Jones credits his success in the working world to his passion for endurance sports. Since the late ’80s, he has completed many triathlons, including 17 full Iron Man races, before qualifying for the Iron Man World Championships in 2015. He translates his beast-mode mentality from the competitions to the boardroom.

“Triathlons are competitive and challenge me to go beyond my perceived limits,” he says. “My job with VisitDallas is also competitive, as Dallas battles other cities for events, conferences and other business revenue. Triathlons and other endurance sports have helped me grow stronger and braver in all aspects of my business and professional life.”

Smart Moves

Chris White

Amid a whirlwind of change and growth at Auberge Resorts Collection, Chris White will take over as senior director of regional sales and marketing for the Napa Valley and Cabo San Lucas properties. The announcement comes as Auberge opened its second Cabo San Lucas resort, Chileno Bay Resort and Residences. White brings 20 years of experience to the table with a resume full of big names: Hyatt Hotels Corp., Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Four Seasons Hotels Limited, Starwood Hotels & Resorts and—most recently—KSL Resorts.

Fredia Brady

Wilmington Convention Center has hired Fredia Brady as its general manager. The SMG veteran is taking over just as the rebranding of the River District starts to take shape with the opening of adjacent Embassy Suites Wilmington Riverfront Hotel this year. Brady has 25 years of experience in convention sales and marketing, business development, facility operations and event management. She most recently served as senior director of sales and marketing for Savannah International Trade & Convention Center.

Ryan Golpeo

Hawaii Convention Center has tapped Ryan Golpeo as its new director of operations. With 14 years of hospitality expeirence under his belt, Golpeo began his career as the general manager of premium services at US Airways Center in Phoenix. Since then, he has worked for multiple venues, including Pepsi Center in Denver, where he executed the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and the Forum in Inglewood, California, one of the top 10 grossing concert venues in the nation according to Billboard magazine.