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Ironman Takes on Texas Bathroom Bill

2017 Changemaker Phillip Jones, president and CEO of VisitDallas, is fighting to make his city a center for inclusion.

MeetingsNet’s annual Changemaker list recognizes 20 outstanding meetings professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways. Find all the profiles here.

Phillip J. Jones
President and CEO
For working to make Dallas a center for diversity and inclusion

Making Change
Four years ago I created the diversity and inclusion department to act as a catalyst for change within our industry and organization. Our goal is to market Dallas as the ideal convention and leisure destination for women, multicultural, multigenerational, and LGBT groups. I saw a need to leverage diversity and inclusion to create a customized destination experience for clients, and to engage our community and collaborate with them to create a positive economic impact on Dallas. Here’s an example: We worked with The American Council of the Blind to provide facilities for visitors with service dogs to make them welcome in Dallas.

I appointed Renee McKenney, CMP, to the new position of chief experience officer because making the total visitor experience in Dallas is our number one priority. VisitDallas is the first in the country to have a C-level role focusing the entire division on customer service. Our approach is working; we have grown from half a million-room nights to 2.1 million, and from 10 citywide events to 36. Part of our success has been negotiating the development of the Omni Dallas Hotel at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, a game changer for the meetings and events business.

Fighting Change
It’s important to me to battle any “bathroom bill” legislation like SB6 in Texas for three simple reasons: It’s discriminatory, it’s bad for business, and it’s unnecessary. VisitDallas supports a diverse and inclusive conventions, meetings, sports, and tourism market, and we work with our partners in the hospitality industry to generate economic impact for North Texas through major events and tourism. Bad bathroom legislation would severely hinder our ability to do our jobs well and would wreck the Texas brand. We are proud of our home and want every visitor to feel at home here, too.

Best Business Advice
Make your career doing what you love, your passion, and success will follow. I’ve been in the tourism and hospitality industry all my life because I’m passionate about the place I represent and I love what I do.

After college, I helped organize the Department of Commerce’s first-ever White House Conference on travel and tourism in Washington, which led to becoming Louisiana’s Secretary of Culture, Recreation and Tourism and then my current position. I’ve always believed that travel and tourism offers exposure to other customs, religions, and ethnicities. It’s a bridge to global understanding.

Best Advice You Give
Time management is essential to balance work, travel, family, and personal pursuits. Honing those skills has been essential to success for me.

I’m really thrilled to be the chair of the 2017 PCMA Education Foundation Board of Trustees. Our primary goal is to raise money from our industry to support continuing education and educational opportunities.

Got a Spare Hour?
I’m an avid endurance sports athlete. I’ve completed 25 triathlons around the world, and 17 full ironman races and qualified for the Ironman World Championships in Kona in 2015. It’s competitive and challenges me to go beyond my perceived limits.    


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