Travel Daily catches up with Mark Thompson, VP of tourism at VisitDallas, and Mitch Whitten, VP of marketing and communications at Fort Worth CVB.
How have UK visitor statistics compared this year with last?
Dallas/Fort Worth has experienced a 30% increase in UK visitors over the past five years, with more than 2.7 million visitors exploring DFW in 2015.
Were you affected by Hurricane Harvey which hit Texas?
In August, Hurricane Harvey hit the South Texas Coast. Located several hours inland, Dallas and Fort Worth were not directly affected by the storm. Both cities are supporting our fellow Texans in the recovery. We are still welcoming all visitors to Dallas and Fort Worth.
Have you launched any new campaigns?
VisitDallas and the Fort Worth CVB were key sponsors for the Grillstock Festival, which took place from 1-2 July in Bristol. The event was a full weekend of ‘Meat, Music and Mayhem’ and the heart and soul of the festival was ‘King of the Grill’, a Texan-style, low-‘n’-slow BBQ competition.
To coincide with the festival, VisitDallas and the Fort Worth CVB worked with UK tour operators to promote agent booking incentives for them to win tickets to the festival and also promoted tickets through travel trade publications.
The sales incentive was designed to help drive sales to Dallas and Fort Worth, as well as create additional hype around the Grillstock Festival.
What specifically is the tourist office aiming to highlight/promote to UK visitors?
VisitDallas and the Fort Worth CVB are working to promote both cities as a fantastic twin centre holiday to British visitors. As a gateway into Texas and the popular US South, the cities offer a fantastic mix of Texas music, culinary adventure and contemporary city culture.
Our joint aim is to encourage more UK tour operators to sell the two cities separately, but also as a twin city break as the cities are about an hour apart.
Are there any emerging trends with British visitors to the destinations?
On average British visitors spend nine nights in Dallas and Fort Worth. We have seen more tour operators include the cities as part of a multi-centre break which is combined with other Texas and US destinations.
Any news on new hotel developments or new operators to the destination? Airlines?
Dallas is experiencing a boom in hotel openings this year and into next. In 2017, we expect 15 hotels to open by the end of the year, including the highly anticipated Statler Hotel. In 2018 and beyond, a further 11 hotels are slated to open, including the latest US Virgin Hotel.
Fort Worth connected downtown is welcoming a Hampton Inn and Suites and Aloft in the city center. A Courtyard Fort Worth Historic Stockyards Hotel opened in February this year.
What’s your advice for travel agents selling the destination?
A twin centre holiday to Dallas and Fort Worth is a great combination for visitors wanting to experience Texas’s cowboy culture with a modern urban vibe. Travel agents should highlight that there are direct flights with British Airways and American Airlines from London to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and both cities have over 230 days of sunshine a year.
Both cities offer a great selection of sports, dining opportunities and tax-free shopping. There are plenty of exciting opportunities for UK visitors. The Dallas Art District is the largest contiguous urban arts district in the nation and boasts a diverse display of museums and performing arts venues, from ballet to opera to top traveling Broadway musicals.
Visitors can also purchase a Dallas CityPASS which saves 41% on four of the city’s top attractions, including the iconic GeO-Deck at Reunion Tower, Perot Museum of Nature and Science and a choice between The Sixth Floor Museum or Dallas Zoo, and the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden or the George W. Bush Presidential Library & Muesum.
Similarly, Fort Worth offers visitors a great list of things to do, most within a two-mile radius. Stockyards Rodeo is the world’s only year-round rodeo, surrounded by nightlife. Purchase a Stockyards Adventure Pass to explore the district.
Sundance Square downtown is another hotspot for visitors as it is a great place for hotels, restaurants, shops, museums, bars, and clubs. The nearby National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame features new exhibits after an extensive renovation.
The Fort Worth Ale Trail gives you access to more than 10 breweries and distilleries throughout the city, with prizes for visiting five locations or all 10.
Both cities are fantastic for sport enthusiasts. Dallas is home to many major sports teams, including American football, basketball, baseball, soccer and hockey. Travel in the fall and early winter to see the world-famous Dallas Cowboys and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders in action. Or tour AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, any time of year for an inside look at the stadium’s art collection and a chance to run on the field. Fort Worth is home to golf and outdoor recreation.
What training/incentives are you offering travel agents?
VisitDallas and the Fort Worth CVB will be running more booking incentives throughout the year to help incentivise and educate agents to book more holidays to Dallas and Fort Worth. We will also be offering ongoing destination trainings and FAM trips, which are an integral part of our plans.