Craig Davis, President & CEO of VisitDallas, shares his thoughts on what hoteliers can expect as guests begin to return
by CRAIG DAVIS
Ask seasoned travelers for advice on making travel more enjoyable, and they’ll likely share a couple of practical things they’ve learned along the way. During my time in the industry, here are a couple of the most common themes I have heard.
First, being prepared will make your travels easier. Second, be flexible. Things don’t always happen as scheduled, and sometimes, a Plan B might even exceed the expectations of Plan A. Third, be patient. Often, the best things in life take time. Fourth, always be receptive to trying and learning new things.
During the past 15 months, how often have these same lessons applied to our broader industry? Here in Dallas, our organization has landed on Plan G instead of Plan A more than I would like to admit, and the number of times I’ve grown frustrated and weary from the uncertainty is countless. But travel teaches tenacity, rewards endurance, and exemplifies resilience.
As an eternal optimist who has been in this industry for almost three decades, I know firsthand how tough and adaptable we are, so I’ve remained confident in the safe return of travel. Given this confidence, I knew the pandemic wasn’t the time to press pause but was instead an opportunity to continue our work with patience and flexibility.
As the pandemic progressed, research indicated that when the doors of hotels and attractions reopened, travelers would be ready to leave their homes with a spending power rivaling pre-pandemic levels.
At VisitDallas, we chose to continue our marketing, advertising, and sales efforts, knowing it was important to keep Dallas at the forefront of our visitors’ and clients’ minds. Like many, we had to scale back given funding limitations, but nevertheless, we persisted to accomplish our goals with reduced resources via new platforms and little bit of extra elbow grease.
STAY THE COURSE
Early in the pandemic, we knew we had to be flexible in the coming months, so VisitDallas led the nation as the first destination to seek the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR accreditation, the gold standard for cleaning, disinfection, and infectious-disease prevention protocols. To date, our convention center, both airports, and several dozen hotels and venues have achieved this stringent accreditation, certifying their facilities as sanitary and safe.
Research indicates that more than half of individuals are ready for convention travel, but still, our VisitDallas-led research shows that 80% of meeting planners from across all market segments continue to find safety and cleanliness protocols incredibly important as they plan events. Given this information, our GBAC protocols will remain intact at certified locations for the foreseeable future.
This accreditation helped us safely host events during the pandemic, such as the Mecum Auto Auction in October 2020, and set a foundational standard for what future events, such as AAHOACON21 this month, will look like moving forward as our industry continues to recover.
I’ve suffered greatly from video-call fatigue since March 2020. Every day, I woke up looking forward to when we could welcome guests back to Dallas. I missed the shared meals, the conversations, and the exchange of ideas. This past year has certainly taught us new lessons, but the foremost for me is this: What we do matters. People gathering in person, experiencing new things, and enjoying life’s simplest pleasures are irreplaceable, and for that, we are incredibly fortunate.