MICE in Dallas: Business in Boots

In Articles by Ulrike

Dallas: Business in Boots

The location of the cult series “Dallas” has developed rapidly, morphing from a rough oil city into a metropolis with top-class events infrastructure. Today, Dallas is chasing records the way the Ewings once pursued wealth.

J.R. laughs his most derisive laugh, brother Bobby looks concerned, father Jock reaches for the whisky carafe and the viewer knows that Cliff Barnes will have to bury yet another dream. That was how the climax of the TV week ended for millions of viewers in the 1980s. “Dallas”, the never-ending story of a wealthy oil clan, was the first TV binge-fest with a global reach.

TEXT BY: Stefanie Bisping

The bigger city of Houston was not the only place where people were rubbing their eyes in disbelief about the sudden fame achieved by the city of Dallas, which had up to then always been considered a bit provincial. The city became synonymous with staggering wealth, but also with total unscrupulousness.

Not so Provincial

Forty years have passed since the first episode of “Dallas” was broadcast, and a lot has happened in that time. “Today, Dallas is a refined, discerning city,” says James Winning, Director of Sales and Marketing at the Fairmont Hotel Dallas. “It has the largest contiguous cultural district in the entire country, it’s a melting pot for different cultures and neighborhoods, and it’s unbelievably versatile. This choice gives event organizers unique opportunities.”

And all of this, into the bargain, in a “very business-friendly environment,” says Eric Hofer, Director, Sales and Account Management North America at HRS.

Event organizers will receive a warm welcome too. “The famous Southern hospitality really exists,” says Winning, ever the salesman. Dallas itself is quick to reassure the world that however pleased it is about the city’s early success as a ‘location’, no one here is actually as mean as J.R. On the contrary, Winning agrees: “The people here are exceedingly likeable.”

From TV Location to IT, Finance and Medical hub

Yet there was a lot of truth behind the TV fable. Oil was what made the ninth-largest city in the US rich, fortune-hunters made it ambitious. In the 1970s and 1980s, the skyscrapers sprang up that made the opening credits of the cult series a familiar image for the rest of the world.

And just as J.R. rebounded after every setback, Dallas never let itself be held back by crises for long. The city overcame the blemish of being the scene of J.F. Kennedy’s assassination. When part of the oil business migrated to Houston and the savings and loan crisis put an end to the construction boom of the 1980s, the hometown of companies like Texas Instruments returned to its core competencies.

In the new millennium, Dallas managed to establish itself as a location for computing, telecommunications and financial services – and for medicine. In fact, Dallas has not just spawned oil barons, it has also produced six winners of the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

Meeting of Medical Minds

“In the past year, we have specifically courted the market for medical congresses,” says Philip Jones, CEO and President of Visit Dallas. His reasoning: “Dallas is home to some of the best hospitals, health centers and medical research institutes in the country. In the North Texas region, $ 7.6 billion is currently being invested in the construction of hospitals. Because of some of the most famous professional sports teams in the United States train in Dallas, sports medicine plays a very important role too. We offer convention participants access to outstanding scientists and top-class institutes.”

The strategy is working. Every month, doctors from all over the world gather in the city. In September 2019 alone, the 3rd World congress on Medical Sociology and Public Health, the International Conference on Public Health and Epidemic Diseases and the 18th World Conference on Optometry and Photo Refractive Keratectomy for glaucoma and other eye diseases took place here.

Super-Size my Event

There is certainly enough space in Dallas. In total, the 7-million-inhabitant metropolitan region comprising neighboring cities Dallas, Arlington and Fort Worth enjoys an infrastructure that lives up to the Texan love of size. One could say that striving for superlatives is written in the state’s DNA, and it was the largest US state until Alaska joined the union in 1959.

With 80,000 hotel beds, of which 13,000 are in the city center, Dallas is already well positioned today. However, in light of the boom in events, 35 new hotels with an additional 5,500 rooms are currently in the pipeline.

Among the most prominent additions is the brand-new Virgin hotel with 200 rooms in the trendy Design District. Next up, the 164-room Pittman Hotel rooms is planned for a 2020 launch in the Deep Ellum district, which is dominated by art and bars – as part of the construction project The Epic, which will include offices and shops as well.

Typically Texan

“The city is constantly developing,” says Jennifer Girgus, Director of Sales at the Four Seasons Hotel Dallas. “We have excellent restaurants, world-class museums and on top of that some of the best sports arenas in the country.”

For example, the AT&T Stadium, home to the Dallas Cowboys American football team between Dallas and Fort Worth in Arlington. With the largest interior space not supported by columns, 80,000 seats and standing room for a further 30,000, as well as an integrated art collection, it is a typical Texan heavyweight.

Furthermore, the choice of unusual locations is large as well. They include The Sixth Floor, a museum in the warehouse from where the fatal shots were fired on President John F. Kennedy in 1963, but also the Canton Hall, a concert hall that opened in 2017 in a former factory building in the trendy Deep Ellum, as well as the Ewings’ legendary Southfork Ranch.

Location Counts

The city’s location also makes it ideal for events. It is served by two large airports, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Love Field. In fact, with 2,200 flights per day, Dallas/Fort Worth is actually one of the largest airports in the world. Jennifer Girgus says: “Dallas lies in the center of the country; it’s the headquarters of American Airlines and Southwest Airlines and it offers more non-stop connections than any other city in the United States. That makes us very easily accessible from both coasts as well as internationally.”

Fairmont Hotel Manager James Winning values the city’s excellent opportunities for recreation. “You only have to walk a few minutes from downtown Dallas to the historic Katy Trail, a section of the railroad that once connected Missouri, Kansas and Texas,” he says. Today, the tracks, which have been neglected since the 1980s, and which were once feared as a hotspot for crime, are a five-kilometer-long path for jogging and cycling that connects the city’s parks. At the same time, the trail symbolizes the development of the rough oil city into a metropolis with quality of life. J.R. would be rubbing his hands in glee!