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Letters From Our Readers

By D Magazine |
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IMPRESSIVE RESULTS
Our April cover story, “Jonesing For More,” looked at the effectiveness of Phillip Jones, president and CEO of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau.

[Your article] attempted to critique the meetings and convention industry in Dallas. The article failed, however, to mention the bureau’s impressive results over the last five years. As the current and former chairs of the DCVB board of directors during the five years that Phillip Jones has served as president/CEO, we are firmly supportive of his leadership and take pride in the results.

Phillip has consistently demonstrated that he is results-oriented and possesses an exceptional background in destination marketing as well as convention sales. With Phillip’s leadership, we created transparency in bureau practices and policies and established a formal auditing procedure to validate room-night bookings.

The DCVB’s management adopted a new strategy to market the city focusing on its strengths as an exciting visitor destination, because meeting planners will not bring meetings to Dallas if it’s not perceived as an appealing destination. Over the last five years, the bureau has brought thousands of meetings planners—nearly 600 in the last year alone—as well as almost 700 journalists here to experience the “Dallas difference.”
The bureau’s sales numbers are solid, impressive, but now also audited. For the last fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2008, the DCVB reported more than 1 million room nights sold last fiscal year, breaking bureau records; and 15 “city-wides” sold during the year that will fill hotels throughout the city.

Tourism is a big business for Dallas. Currently, taxes from convention-center business generate nearly 10 percent of total sales tax receipts, saving every Dallas homeowner an average of $1,000 per year. It is a shame that D CEO [portrayed] a true Dallas success story during such trying economic times as less than what it is.

Laura V. Estrada Fritzi Pikes Woods
Chair, 2008-09 Chair, 2005-06

Arthur Hollingsworth Pete Kline
Chair, 2007-08 Chair, 2003-05

Mike Rawlings
Chair, 2006-07


NEGATIVE BIAS

To Wick Allison, Chairman and Editor-In-Chief, D Magazine Partners: From reading your editorials through the years, I know that you research a subject from different angles, formulate an opinion, and support that opinion with facts. [So,] imagine my shock when I read the recent lead article in your D CEO magazine about Phillip Jones. Though you did not write the article, your name appears as the head of the magazine and, as they say, the buck should stop at your desk. I have seldom read a bigger collection of misstated “facts.”

First, the writer was correct in stating that Phillip came from the “tourism” side of our industry. It almost sounded like Phillip should apologize for that. I would offer that was a major attribute we needed at the time and one that has proved very beneficial for Dallas. Phillip has done more to promote tourism to this city in his short tenure than anyone has in the 30-plus years I have lived in Dallas.

Second, when Phillip came to Dallas the DCVB was all but bankrupt. In his short tenure, not only has he turned it around, he has developed a surplus that is being used strategically to lure new convention and association business to Dallas (and it’s not that easy without a convention-center hotel). That’s not good management—that’s great management. An objective writer would have compared the audited financial statements from the last full year of Dave Whitney’s term to the recently audited financial statements under Phillip Jones. Read them; you will be impressed.

Third, I know Dave Whitney; he is a friend of mine. While Phillip and Dave are very different persons with different styles, Phillip has developed very close working relationships with the leaders of the convention and meetings industry that surpasses what Dave was able to accomplish in his long tenure as head of the DCVB.

Fourth, and the most disheartening about the article, your author interviewed one malcontented restaurateur and several “unnamed” sources to formulate the misstatements and off-base opinions in the article. Where were the people who really know what kind of job Phillip is doing for the city of Dallas? To someone who really does know the industry, the article was written with a negative bias bordering on character assassination. One would wonder with its release so close to the convention-center hotel proposition vote if the negative bias and critical timing were intentional. 

J. William Boyd
President & CEO
Sunbelt Motivation & Travel Inc.
Dallas

SUPPORTIVE OF EFFORTS
I’m writing in regard to the [Phillip Jones] article, in which the writer misrepresented what I had stated. Specifically, I refer to this passage with three sentences in the article:

Asked to speak to Jones’ effectiveness on the job, Whitney declined to comment. But he did say that “building relationships” is a key to maintaining and growing new convention business. The implication: Jones is not good at building those relationships.

While the first sentence is accurate, the second and third sentences appear to contradict the first one. In no way did I state anything that was to be perceived as negative against either the DCVB or Phillip Jones. This is for the record to clarify.

I feel that the DCVB is the most important marketing organization in Dallas and I not only support its current efforts, I welcome its success.

Dave Whitney
Dallas

THE REAL ISSUE

The writer is critical of Jones’ efforts to have the city of Dallas build a convention-center hotel, yet throughout the article, there is strong evidence that the city needs the hotel in order to attract conventions.

Even Al Biernat’s favorite salesperson, David Whitney, “named the construction of a hotel within easy walking distance of the convention center as a priority to compete with other cities.”

As a company totally dependent on conventions and corporate events, we think Phillip Jones is doing a great job for Dallas. I hope whatever criticisms of his performance which may exist do not detract from the real issue: the need to build a convention-center hotel now.

Donald S. Freeman Jr.
Chairman
Freeman
Dallas

IMPRESSIVE SUCCESSES

As CEO of the world’s largest organization of meeting professionals, we try to keep up on media coverage of our industry. But when that coverage comes from our hometown media, we pay even closer attention. Your April article [about Phillip Jones] gives some insights into how success is won or lost in America’s $244 billion meeting and events industry. It is properly characterized as an incredibly competitive business with lucrative economic and social benefits to successful communities.

The article quite correctly reflects the key infrastructure elements that meeting and event decision makers focus on when making a destination selection. One element that major meeting and event organizers consistently look for in a destination that was not explicitly referred to in this article, however, was the community’s demonstrated ability to create a seamless, remarkable experience for the attendees. Large meetings and events are incredibly complex requiring numerous businesses, venues and sometimes thousands of volunteers. Collaboration is essential. The ability for the host community to marshal that collaboration is invaluable.

History will ultimately judge the success of any investment in Dallas’ infrastructure, but the city’s and the region’s successes in the last several years are impressive. We have won the Super Bowl, The Final Four, The NBA All-Star Game and other notable events. In addition, we have been selected to host upcoming annual meetings of the American Society of Association Executives and the Professional Convention Management Association. All of these victories have occurred during Mr. Jones’ leadership of the Dallas CVB.

These successes demonstrate that our Dallas/Fort Worth community can collaboratively deliver results that benefit the bottom line of the city and the region. That is a true function of leadership.

Bruce M. MacMillan
President & CEO
Meeting Professionals International
Dallas

ECONOMY TO BLAME

I recently read the feature in your last issue regarding Phillip Jones and the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau and wanted to respond not only as a Dallas restaurateur but as one who serves on the board of directors for the DCVB.

I felt that the article reflected negatively on the bureau’s current marketing strategy. Although area restaurants are down in revenue, it has nothing to do with lack of effort and initiative on the DCVB’s part. The current national economic situation has definitely been the primary factor for revenue loss and Abacus and Jasper’s.

I personally believe that the DCVB’s approach to expanding the perception of Dallas from its J.R. Ewing days to showcase the vital, sophisticated, option-rich travel destination that it has become has shifted national and international public perception and will continue to be integral to the future success of our city.

Kent Rathbun
Executive Chef and Partner
Abacus, Jasper’s, Rathbun’s Blue Plate Kitchen

HATCHET JOB

Here, your piece is being interpreted as an unfair hatchet job on Jones. We can’t seem to find any time where Jones has said, as you state: “Jones blames Dallas’ mediocre performance on its failure to offer conventioneers enough downtown hotel space.” Any fool who is keeping up with things knows downtown Dallas has plenty of hotel space. What is doesn’t have is a hotel at the convention center.

Too bad your reporter didn’t get the opinion of convention planners, people that Jones and his highly qualified staff have to deal with daily. I am a show producer based in Dallas. I love Dallas. I have produced many conventions in Dallas going back nearly 30 years, and want to do more. But it is increasingly impossible with Dallas lagging the rest of the free world in having no hotel rooms convenient to our convention center.

It is unfair for critics of Jones to say “his focus is tourism–not conventions–and that he may lack the relationship-building skills necessary to grow meetings business.” That is absolute, unadulterated bull! Jones and his staff are great to deal with; all the show producers I know like them.

What we don’t like is the third-world thinking by many of this town’s so-called business leaders that want to keep Dallas a backwater in the convention business. Little wonder Jones’ crew is forced to go after tourism; we at least want something and convention planners don’t want to touch this burg until we modernize. It is just too risky.

I hope for the sake of the convention industry here you stop beating up the poor people that have to get slammed daily by producers because some business leaders here are too stupid or greedy to see the need to modernize. Please back the convention center hotel before our city is damaged further in both revenues and reputation.

Colonel Mason
nanotxUSA Conference/Expo

SOPHISTICATED MARKET
In the April issue we listed the Top Commercial Real Estate Brokers in Dallas, as determined in a survey conducted by an independent marketing firm.

Thank you for the honor. However, I can assure you that I have numerous friends and competitors in the industry whose names should have been on the list instead of mine.

I work with brokers and investors from around the country. The level of “market knowledge, sophistication, and integrity” of Dallas commercial brokers is second to none. We are fortunate that our industry enjoys a healthy balance of competition as well as cooperation.

I think that “spirit” will help us, as well as our clients, continue to thrive in North Texas.

Sean M. Byrne
Dallas

IT’S ’FORMER MARINE’
John F. Crawford of DowntownDallas was featured in our March Meet the CEO feature.

By using the modifier “ex” in the term “ex-marine,” the coverline promoting your story on John Crawford had an unintended meaning.

There is only one ex-marine: Lee Harvey Oswald.

John should be referred to as a former marine, unless he did something extra terrible.

Great issue, otherwise.

Your magazine is great, and a must-read to see the CEO pattern in Dallas. Most CEOs are elusive creatures, and I find it fascinating to see them profiled in such detail.

Ben Trowbridge
Alsbridge Inc.
Dallas

WRITE TO US: The editors of D CEO welcome your feedback. Please e-mail your letters to [email protected] or send them to Editor, D CEO, 4311 Oak Lawn Ave., First Floor, Dallas, TX 75219. Please include your name and company. Published letters may be edited for length and clarity.