More than 26.7 million people visited Dallas in 2016, adding an estimated $7.4 billion to the city’s economy. Event professionals bring their groups for the world-class restaurants, museums and super-sized facilities. Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center alone offers more than 1 million sq. ft. of space. But when VisitDallas President and CEO Phillip Jones presented his annual report, he credited one more key feature for his group’s success in attracting meetings—the absence of a “bathroom bill.”
Jones made a point of thanking advocates and Texas state legislators who helped defeat proposed Senate Bill 6, which would have restricted access to public restrooms, showers and locker rooms for transgender people. The measure was controversial and seen by the LGBT community as discriminatory. Jones predicted that if the bathroom bill had passed, it would have crippled the Texas tourism economy. A similar measure passed in North Carolina resulted in an estimated $3.76 million in lost revenue, according to some estimates. Concerts, sporting events and meetings were canceled as part of a national boycott.
“Let me be clear, none of our accomplishments would have happened if the bathroom bill would have passed,” Jones said. “In fact–it would be quite the opposite. I’d be on this stage making apologies for widespread cancellations, terrible booking numbers and massive negative press for Dallas and all of Texas.”
Promoting diversity has been a focus of VisitDallas leadership. A Diversity and Inclusion committee assists the organization with educating the market, engaging external partners and promoting collaboration in the community. Last year, VisitDallas staff participated in 418 hours of diversity and inclusion training and development. And the organization supported numerous groups, including Dallas Southern Pride and International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association.