Kim Phillips: Don’t take Denton for granted

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Denton is a product that sells. Our team at the Denton Convention and Visitors Bureau knows this intimately as our purpose for existing is to do exactly that. And it is a job about which we are passionate. I believe we have one of the best CVB teams in Texas, and having a great product to market is absolutely our strongest asset.

At year-end 2013, tourism in the city of Denton was up 11 percent over 2012. Interestingly enough, sales tax revenue in Denton increased in 2013 at almost exactly the same rate. This is no coincidence. Tourism is an industry comprised of many moving parts including hotels, restaurants, retail, venue rental, and entertainment just to name a few.

If we isolate just one or two pieces of the tourism puzzle, such as hotels and restaurants, in an attempt to analyze tourism’s impact on our city, we miss the mark. A good analogy is trying to assess a vehicle’s performance by measuring how well the tires wear and efficiency of miles per gallon without considering the brakes, engine and the rest of the whole that comprises a reliable car.

On occasion, various civic and business groups request members of our staff to talk about Denton’s travel and tourism industry. In general, Denton residents are aware that tourism is happening. But what does that mean, exactly? It’s difficult to see from the home front because our marketing efforts are primarily unfolding outside our city toward audiences that might visit here. So it is understandable that people like to hear about the mechanics of how we talk about Denton, what we say in the marketplace, and how our messages are received. At our human core, the vast majority of us do care about how others perceive us as individuals. The same is true from a community vantage point. We are keen to learn how people elsewhere think about Denton.

In such a presentation recently, I stated that Denton is a destination city. An audience member offered the opinion that our work must be quite challenging because Denton has nothing to offer as a destination. In every city and town, hometown eyes are often blinded by complacent familiarity to what visitors find fascinating. The CVB team’s eyes are trained to see Denton through visitors’ eyes, ever seeking the unique, unusual and original nuances that intrigue. Thousands respond to our messages every year.

To put this in perspective, let’s engage in a bit of math. For the purpose of merely counting heads, we will isolate one piece of Denton’s tourism product. Within Denton’s city limits are 2,026 hotel rooms. In the first quarter of 2014, our citywide occupancy was 60.14 percent. Applying the math evenly over the 90-day period, 1,218 rooms were occupied every night. If only one person stayed in each guest room, 8,526 visitors were in our city every week and a total 109,620 were here from Jan. 1 through March 31. This is significant! When visitor counts in just one quarter almost equal our population, how can any deny Denton’s attraction as a destination?

Worldwide media outlets including Yahoo!, Huffington Post, Livability, London’s Guardian, the Travel Channel, Rand McNally and many others have singled out and recognized our city’s attractiveness as a destination. Some of you may recall last fall when Texas Highways launched its 40th anniversary with a friendly competition among cities in Texas.

Texas Highways, with a subscriber base of more than 800,000, asked readers to rank their top 40 Texas destination picks. Many of us eagerly open our issue the moment it arrives to see if Denton has made the coveted list. I know because I do this, and many of you call and email when, as of the July issue, Denton is still not there. How I see it, the top nine destinations are yet to be revealed. As we have watched the world watch us in recent years, Denton continues to be cited as the emerging Texas destination. I open my Texas Highways with confident anticipation that before it’s all over, Denton will be counted among the top Texas destinations.

The mission of this column is sharing Denton with Denton residents. I am passionate about making every one of us believers in the fact that what the world out there perceives about us is real. This is not merely a weekly pep talk. The original, independent Denton we take for granted is intriguing, and people all over the world are taking notice. It’s in the numbers!

KIM PHILLIPS is vice president of the Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau at the Denton Chamber of Commerce. She loves promoting Denton’s original, independent spirit through the city’s sense of place and cast of many characters. She can be reached at kim@discoverdenton.com.


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