The numbers are in, and from bookings and delegate spend to capital investment and economic development, virtually every Lone Star State destination is reporting robust, often record, group growth and returns. In true Texas frontier spirit, the drive is on for even more.
With record sales and booming hotel growth, Dallas exemplifies the market’s strength.
“Our sales team booked 2.4 million future room nights and 42 citywide events in fiscal 2016-2017,” said VisitDallas President and CEO Phillip Jones. “Records for both categories, this work produced $1.96 billion in future economic impact.”
Presently offering some 13,000 downtown rooms and 80,000-plus area rooms, Dallas is second behind New York City in U.S. hotel rooms under construction, with 18 recently opened properties and another 37 projects adding some 5,800 new rooms to the pipeline.
Growth strategies include attracting more medical meetings.
“Dallas has some of the world’s most advanced medical facilities, a thriving research scene and some of the greatest minds in the health sciences,” Jones said.
“These characteristics, paired with Dallas hospitality, more than ideally position our city for industry meetings.”
Fort Worth, the nation’s fifth-fastest growing metropolitan area and now America’s 15th most populous city, is also investing in hotel growth.
“Limited inventory and high demand are driving the addition of nearly 1,000 rooms through several new developments currently underway in the downtown core,” said John Cychol, Visit Fort Worth’s vice president of meeting sales. “New experiential marketing initiatives, such as Fort Worth Stories, featuring first-hand stories from and interactions with local ambassadors, are resonating well with meeting planners and producing increased bookings.”
With much to promote in blockbuster new investments, including the Texas Live! entertainment district and its anchoring Live! By Loews hotel, conversion of the Arlington Convention Center into the nation’s largest esports stadium and new Globe Life Park baseball stadium, Arlington’s top priority is raising national awareness of the destination.
“Our full brand repositioning, complete with new media tactics, strategy and creative overhaul, has yielded fantastic results,” said Jon Hixon, vice president of sales for the Arlington CVB. “Geared for successful events and famous for fun, Arlington has hosted 35 percent more events in 2018 over last year, with 13 percent growth in booked room nights, and is on pace for a banner year.”
Influenced by a strong corporate market, Fortune 500 stronghold Irving remains a short-term market.
“Corporate is driving high performance and a high rate of return business at our hotels and the Irving Convention Center,” reported Irving CVB Executive Director Maura Allen Gast.
Opened in fall 2017, the Toyota Music Factory, featuring two dozen-plus dining and nightlife options, is extending Irving’s appeal.
“Easily accessed by conventioneers and guests at our 75-plus hotels, this compact, efficient and distinctly cosmopolitan entertainment component has allowed Irving to evolve its positioning for groups,” Gast said. “Other developments, including a new Heritage District art gallery and new museum featuring a Smithsonian Spark!Lab, will continue to provide new and distinctive experiences for returning guests.”
Plano is also building on its corporate bedrock.
“Our mandate is meeting the needs of the business traveler,” said Visit Plano Executive Director Mark Thompson. “Over the past several years, we have expanded airlift, increased hotel options and optimized business amenities, space and services. Expressed by our new ‘Visit Plano, It’s All Here’ tagline, there’s no need to venture beyond the city limits for anything.”
Groups are getting the message.
“Event bookings are up 24 percent and room night bookings up 18 percent over 2017,” Thompson said. “Our meetings business is better than ever, and with interest in Plano and our industry partners only rising, we don’t see this slowing down.”
Frisco continues to make national headlines as the nation’s fastest growing big city and for its “$5 Billion Mile” mega-development (now the “The Frisco North Platinum Corridor”), which includes The Star—the Dallas Cowboys World Headquarters.
Yet, according to Frisco CVB Executive Director Marla Roe, meeting professionals are still discovering the destination.
“We feel that Frisco remains a pleasant surprise to some planners from outside the broader DFW market, so we talk about Frisco being ‘Totally Unexpected,’” she said.
Frisco is clearly on the map, however.
“Actualized business is up over 2017 by about 25 percent in booked groups, with corresponding room nights up 40 percent,” Roe said. “Future bookings are up 8 percent so far this fiscal year. To strengthen and expand our market, we are aggressively pursuing financial, medical and national association business.”
Frisco is also diversifying its off-site and overnight appeal. Future projects include the National Soccer Hall of Fame (October 2018); new 325-room AC Marriott/Residence Inn close to The Star; new 303-room Hyatt Regency Stonebriar with a conference center attached to the Stonebriar Centre mall; and in 2020, the indoor/outdoor Music City Frisco.
Home of DFW International Airport, the region’s $38 billion economic engine that offers 1,800 daily flights providing service to 200-plus domestic and international destinations, Grapevine is leveraging its centralized U.S. location—and strong local leadership—to maintain strong meetings momentum.
“Consistency at multiple levels of leadership has led to a robust tourism master plan founded in intentional development,” said Brady Closson, managing director of sales and marketing for the Grapevine CVB.
“City-approved projects include three new hotel brands that will add 1,440 guest rooms to our current inventory of 5,714 and existing 1 million-plus square feet of flexible meeting space,” Closson added.