Even for someone like Craig Davis, who has been in the hospitality industry for more than three decades, this past year was unlike anything he had ever experienced.
Davis began his tenure as President & CEO of VisitDallas in January 2020, right before the world shutdown. Prior to VisitDallas, since 2012, he served as President & CEO of VisitPittsburgh. During his 19-year career at VisitPittsburgh, Davis also served as Executive Director of Convention Sales and Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Davis’ extensive background in the hospitality industry includes experience in marketing and sales at hotels in Pittsburgh, Chicago and Toronto.
We spoke with him to learn a bit more about what makes Dallas a standout destination for events, as well as some of the best ways destinations can be prepared to move forward.
What makes Dallas unique from other destinations?
The people here – that's our unique identifier. Dallasites are warm and friendly people, particularly the folks who work the hospitality industry front lines. They are likely some of the first people that you'll encounter when you arrive to Dallas, whether it's someone helping you with luggage outside of the airport or greeting you at the front lobby of your hotel. Our locals make this city great.
Why is Dallas great for meetings and those traveling here for conventions?
There are several reasons that come to mind. Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Dallas has one of the largest footprints in the nation, and this alone makes it ideal for hosting both business meetings and sporting events.
Another is access to Dallas. We're located in the middle of the country, and our airports (DFW International Airport and Dallas Love Field) provide ideal access from anywhere in the country within four hours or less – perfect for travelers from all around the U.S. and the world.
And I can't answer this question without addressing some of the key attractors to Dallas: our weather is wonderful for a good portion of the year and provides ample opportunities to enjoy parks, patios and sunny days. Plus, our attractions and arts and culture offerings rank among the best in the nation. You can truly experience a lot during your free time away from work.
How are you prepared as a destination to safely host visitors?
Our commitment to safety remains our number one priority, which is why we are continuing the implementation of the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR accreditation – the gold standard for cleaning and infection prevention protocols. Dallas led the nation by becoming the first destination to seek the accreditation designating Dallas hotels, airports and major venues as sanitary and safe.
What has surprised you the most about Dallas?
Coming from Canada, I didn't think the culture of kindness could be any stronger than what I experienced growing up – and I was so wrong. Dallas – this city and its people – have blown me away with generosity and support. We've made so many close friends here in a very short time, and it really speaks to the culture of this city. Simply said, it's the way of life here!
A lot of things are looking up this year, with more people getting vaccinated and traveler sentiment on the rise. What are you looking forward to in the months ahead?
More than anything, I'm very excited to see my colleagues in the hospitality industry, particularly those who work in hotels and live events, returning to work. I know our partners in the live events world are ready to get back to work, and our industry will be stronger than ever.
Tell us about one of your favorite Dallas experiences so far.
In the first few months living here, we were invited by Joanna Saint Angelo, the Executive Director at Sammons Center for the Arts, to experience an intimate performance of local jazz artists. We really got a taste of the Dallas arts scene that night and were so excited to experience the vast arts community in this city. We met two couples at separate times that evening who have now become close friends. Those are the kinds of connections it’s easy to make in Dallas.
Learn more at visitdallas.com.