The pandemic’s lingering effects on Dallas’ tourism business are expected to dissipate by next year.
Visit Dallas, the city’s tourism bureau, said visitor spending in 2021 rose to $4.4 billion, with 22.5 million people traveling to Dallas for conventions, conferences and business meetings. Spending on everything from hotel stays and dining to air travel and shopping was up 41% from the previous year, recovering to 77% of 2019 levels.
That’s projected to rise to 99% of pre-pandemic times by the end of this year.
The annual study, released Monday, comes as Dallas voters cast ballots on a proposition that would raise the hotel tax to pay for a new convention center and improvements for Fair Park venues. The Tuesday ballot measure would raise occupancy taxes collected from customers who rent rooms from hotels, motels and short-term rentals in the city from 13% to 15%.
“The tourism industry is the 10-largest industry in Dallas and a critical economic engine for the city, generating tax revenue and jobs that residents rely on,” said Visit Dallas CEO Craig Davis in a statement. “Dallas is recovering faster than expected, bringing necessary revenue back to the city.”
Tourism accounted for an overall $7.2 billion boost to the local economy in 2021, when other factors such as supported jobs and state and local tax revenue are included, according to Visit Dallas. That total is projected to exceed $10 billion by 2023.
“Even with mounting economic challenges, prospects for the Dallas travel industry remain strong,” said Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics, which conducted the study for Visit Dallas. “While a recession will temper growth, we expect the forward momentum of travel to continue well into 2023.”
In 2021, visitors rose by 3.6 million, with 57% staying in Dallas for overnight trips. That’s crucial for the city’s hotels and restaurants – two of the hardest hit economic sectors when the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily shut down businesses.
Employment in the Dallas area’s leisure and hospitality industry didn’t return to pre-pandemic levels until this April. Total employment recovered much more quickly, reaching February 2020 levels in June 2021.
Tourism supported 43,315 jobs in 2021, according to the study. That’s projected to rise to over 62,000 jobs next year.
In September, the leisure and hospitality industry was the biggest contributor to Texas’ job growth, adding 25,700 jobs, up nearly 12% from the same month last year.
“Recovery in tourism and hospitality jobs is vital to the health of the Dallas community,” said Traci Mayer, executive director of the Hotel Association of North Texas. “From large businesses to mom-and-pop shops in every neighborhood of Dallas, visitor spending is essential to the livelihoods of families in our community.”
Hotels in Dallas recorded a strong spring and early summer, according to Source Strategies, a San Antonio-based research firm that tracks hotel performance. Revenue for the three months that ended June 30 totaled $746 million, up considerably from $632 million in the same period in 2019.