Facing Scrutiny, VisitDallas President and CEO Phillip Jones Steps Down
Following a Dallas city audit released in January that scrutinized VisitDallas and its president and CEO, Phillip Jones, the bureau announced he is stepping down.
The VisitDallas Board of Directors and Jones came to a mutual decision at a board meeting today. An interim CEO will be announced May 9, and the Board has begun a search for a full-time successor.
“The Board is thankful to Phillip for his 15 years of leadership and great career at VisitDallas,” said Mark Woelffer, VisitDallas board chair.
He added, “We are proud of the work VisitDallas has accomplished during Phillip’s tenure to promote Dallas, which is now a top ten destination nationally for meetings, conventions, sporting events and leisure travel. As Phillip has decided to pursue other opportunities, we wish him the very best.”
Jones came under fire after the audit because of his $700,000 salary and some expenses.
According to local news reports, the audit found that VisitDallas commingled tax revenue in violation of state law; offered what the audit found were vague metrics that made it difficult to gauge whether it's fulfilling its contract; and too slowly paid its $500,000 annual contribution to the convention center's upkeep.
The Dallas City Council voted to close the city’s convention and visitors bureau soon after the audit was released, but VisitDallas was saved by a 3-2 vote.
“It has been a privilege to lead VisitDallas during an important period of growth for the organization and now it’s time for my next challenge,” Jones said.
He added, “Together with my colleagues at VisitDallas, the City of Dallas and partners across the hospitality and tourism industry, we have positioned Dallas as the top visitor destination in Texas for meetings and events, and one of the top convention and visitor destinations in the nation. I’m proud of our accomplishments and know the organization is on track for continued success.”
“Phillip’s positive contributions to Dallas have been significant and lasting,” said Joyce Williams, incoming board chair of VisitDallas.
She added, “During Phillip’s tenure hotel room-night bookings increased five-fold, we moved from number eighteen to number six on the country’s top visitor destination list, Dallas’ Tourism Public Improvement District was created and Dallas was re-branded as a global destination. He led the charge statewide to defeat the ‘Bathroom Bill’ not just once, but twice. We wish Phillip well and look forward to continuing the great momentum as we welcome new leadership.”
Williams will lead the search committee to identify VisitDallas’ next leader and will begin work immediately.
VisitDallas, along with Mayor Mike Rawlings will announce an Interim CEO during a news conference tomorrow.
UPDATE: On May 9, VisitDallas appointed Sam Coats as the organization's interim CEO. Coats has previously served as CEO of six different companies, including two airlines, and has a long history of civic leadership in Dallas. He will assist in the formal search process for VisitDallas' CEO in the coming months.