DALLAS – The Dallas Area Visitors Center asked the city of Dallas for more support during a presentation at the Dallas City Council meeting on Monday evening.
DAVC President Jon Woods asked the city for a three-year contract and at least $50,000 or half of transient lodging tax money the city collects for the purpose of marketing and putting on events.
“The reason we are asking for this is we need funding that is stable and consistent so we can better serve the area,” Woods said. “This is the bare minimum that we will need to be an effective visitors center.”
Woods said he personally would request all of the transient lodging tax (TLT) money, which is collected from hotels and motels in town. The purpose of the money is to promote tourism through marketing and events in Dallas.
Woods made the request during the DAVC’s annual report to the council. The city has had a contract with the DAVC to provide marketing and event organization for several years. Until recently, the DAVC has received all of the TLT collection in the city.
“In 2018, that was reduced to 70% for marketing the city of Dallas,” Woods said. “In 2019, that changed and we no longer received those funds. At that time, the visitors center and the chamber of commerce, split apart.”
In 2020 and 2021, the visitors center received a part of the TLT money from the city, Woods said.
“The last two years, the visitors center has received a $10,000 donation from a local group that literally help saved the visitors center through COVID,” Woods said. “Without that, we probably would have been closed. That group has stated it can’t do it again. That’s why we are here.”
Woods said receiving all of the TLT money would allow the organization to focus on aspects of tourism promotion that it hasn’t had the resources for in recent years.
“The reason we don’t have time to do that is because at $50,000 or less — and we’ve been operating on a lot less — we have to have our director, Shelly (Jones), put on a lot of these events that make us a little bit of money,” Woods said. “We spend a lot of time dealing with these events, which are great events, but sometimes we get a little too focused on those events because we have to draw in income somehow to continue to move forward.”
Another opportunity to better market Dallas comes with recreational youth softball. Woods is the president of the Lady Dragons Fastpitch club which will put on 14 tournaments in Dallas this year.
“By my estimation, we bring in about 26,000 to 30,000 people into Dallas,” he said. “The reason I mention that is that the Lady Dragons doesn’t have the time and resources to really capitalize on that captive audience. And like I said, we are committed to a lot of events to make an income. We don’t have the time to really sort that out to find out how to really stimulate our local economy with these people coming here weekend after weekend.”
Woods said before COVID-related shutdowns, the visitors center was part of bringing news coverage to Dallas, including features on Portland news channels and in regional newspapers.
Events included launching the Dallas History & Mystery Tours; a screening and after party event for the anniversary of release of movie “The Promise,” which was partially filmed in Dallas; and the first Dallas Wine & Music Market.
After the pandemic began, the visitors center started a movement called Dallas United to inspire community unity, and started Dallas Restaurant Bingo to encourage people to get takeout at restaurants that remained open during pandemic restrictions. DAVC has produced a Dallas dining guide and Dallas visitor guide in the last year.
Miracle on Main Street and Drive-thru Christmas lights display are scheduled for December of this year.
Woods said DAVC will have a new event in 2022 called the Sasquatch Adventure Weekend (SAW).
“We had a big event planned before COVID hit. We had about 11,000 people planning to attend that event. We had vendors from as far away as Ireland who were planning on attending. It was going to be a really big deal,” he said. “It’s not going to happen this year, but it will happen next year. We can’t take any chances with being restricted by COVID because we really want it to be a huge event.”
Councilor Kirsten Collins asked City Manager Brian Latta why the city doesn’t give the visitors center all of the TLT funding, and if it receives only 50 percent, where would the other half of the money go.
Latta said pre-COVID, and average year with the TLT dollars would be between $100,000 and $110,000 per year. During the pandemic, Dallas predicted much less because visits to Dallas were expected to decrease. Last summer’s wildfire, and subsequent use of local motels for displaced people softened that blow.
“We are anticipated to bring in between $80,000 and $85,000 in TLT this year,” Latta said.
He added the city made the decision in 2019 to keep the money and add staff to move marketing and event coordination in-house.
“When we took on that responsibility, we added staff capacity to be able to fund and run those events. We determined that the way we were doing it … we spent a whole lot more money than we actually gave to visitors center,” he said. “I would say that the system we had set previously, the chamber and visitors center was able to use our money more efficiently. There is certainly some benefits to having nonprofit organizations run those events.”
Currently the city gives $15,000 to the DAVC, an amount the Latta described as “meager.”
“Looking at this next year, what we are anticipating is an $80,000 to $90,000 budget in revenues, and we were looking at dividing that between Krazy Dayz, the summer concert series, the Miracle and Main Street event,” Latta said.
He said the city plans on purchasing new holiday lights and giving $20,000 to the Polk County Tourism Alliance.
“That is how the money would be spent, and dividing that up gets tricky with all the different asks that are out there,” Latta said. “What we are looking continuing to fund those events that we feel draw in people from over 50 miles away. That would be Krazy Dayz, the summer concert series and Miracle on Main Street. If we are focusing money there, that would enable us to have really good events that draw people in. As part of that, we would have marketing money that would go into each of those events.”
Marketing could be done by a DAVC or through a marketing company hired by the city.
Latta said his recommendation for spending the money will be included in the city’s proposed budget that will be completed later this spring.
“As part of the proposed budget, which will come to the budget committee in May, we’ll incorporate how the TLT dollars will be spent,” Latta said