Dallas Embraces Diverse Events

0730_RJWeb_DallasDiversemugUnder Phillip J. Jones, president and CEO of the Dallas Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, diversity has become a top priority in the Big D. The CVB was the first in the country to implement a diversity and inclusion department, an action Jones says was spurred by the city’s changing population. The Big Influence campaign has been rolled out in a three-step process, beginning two years ago with a focus on African-Americans, and then expanding to Latinos. In September 2014, the CVB launched its LGBT outreach program, the most recent step Dallas has taken to reach out to minority groups for meetings and events. Here, Jones discusses the CVB’s efforts to embrace diversity. What led to the Big Influence campaign? Dallas is an incredibly diverse community, and it cuts across all spheres. Forty percent is Latino; 20 percent is African-American. Dallas has the fifth-largest gay and lesbian population in the country. We reach out to those communities to help us showcase their influence. Why was Dallas the first to add a D&I department? We like to be the leader. Big things happen here, and this is one of the big ones. What successes have you had with the program? When we launched the program, we targeted the biggest event we could find, which is MegaFest, a lifestyle conference. In the summer of 2013, it brought 78,000 from around the world into town. That’s the biggest diversity initiative we’ve accomplished so far. Since then, we’ve booked the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, and we hosted the Gay Softball World Series. It really reinforces Dallas as a diverse destination with a lot to offer people of all walks of life. How do you make your pitch to these groups? It’s a business decision. We make the business case. If you look across the community, some of our biggest developers are gay, Hispanic or African-American. When we point that out, it makes them realize we appreciate, support and embrace the diversity community in a way people probably would not have associated with Dallas 10 or 15 years ago. Why is it important for destinations to make diversity a priority? It’s crucially important. If you embrace it, support it and become recognized as a city that understands and appreciates diverse communities, they’re going to vote with their feet and end up coming for a meeting, conference or trade show, or even come back as a leisure visitor. Photo Credit: Clay Coleman/Dallas CVB