VisitDallas hires a new CEO from another high-salary agency

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Government CrimeStoppers: Dallas

The new head of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau is Craig Davis, who since 2012 has served as CEO for Pittsburgh’s convention bureau — an agency that has faced the same issues of lack of accountability and controversial executive pay packages as its Dallas counterpart.

Records show that in 2017 Davis received a pay package worth $402,307, including a $76,372 bonus. That same year, Phillip Jones, the man Davis is replacing in Dallas, received $710,026, including a $196,703 bonus.

A 2013 study of salaries at VisitPittsburgh, as that agency is called, found excessive executive pay in comparison to similar-sized markets.

“This public agency has expended millions of dollars with high executive salaries, no accountability or oversight of its performance, and little to show by way of ensuring a financially solvent taxpayer-funded convention center,” Pennsylvania state Sen. Jim Ferlo said in a statement after the study was released.

In five years of his tenure as CEO at VisitPittsburgh, Davis’ pay package increased 33 percent from $301,227 to $402,307. He worked for the agency for 14 years before becoming CEO in 2012. Before the convention bureau, he worked in marketing for the Hilton and Starwood (now Marriott) hotel chains.

In Dallas, Davis’ starting base salary will be $360,000, according to the Dallas convention bureau, known as VisitDallas.

In an interview this week with the Dallas Business Journal, Davis said he plans on “rebuilding the confidence in VisitDallas with the city leadership,” some of whom want to divert part of the agency’s $40 million in city tax funding to other tourism-related endeavors.

Phillip Jones resigned as VisitDallas’ CEO in May, shortly after a story by The Texas Monitor reported numerous instances of his travel coinciding with endurance races he participated in.

Davis told the business journal that he would also try to repair the public image of VisitDallas, which was bruised after a city audit released in January reported that the agency provided murky, debatable data on hotel occupancy and other key measures of its performance.

“I believe that we just need to tell our story in a different way so that we’re connecting with both our public officials and the community of Dallas,” Davis said. “That story is a great story. It just needs to perhaps be refined.”

Steve Miller can be reached at [email protected].

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