Destinations International’s Global Reach Showcased in Dallas at its Annual Convention

Party goers milling about

Skift Take

The pandemic made the world smaller and more inclusive and, thanks to event technology, connected a broad range of global attendees. This helped Destinations International expand its global footprint, which was on full display in Dallas during its annual convention.

When 1,600 attendees gathered in Dallas for Destinations International’s (DI) 2023 Annual Convention, this sold-out show attracted not only veteran meeting professionals but 565 first-time attendees as well. The global association for destination professionals now includes 26 member countries, and attendees from as far away as Australia, Turkey, and Ukraine were in the audience.

Sessions were presented at the 1,001-room Omni Dallas Hotel, connected via sky bridge to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, where the keynotes were held.

“Destinations International has long been a recognized name in the United States, but with a more focused engagement strategy in certain areas of the world, we are seeing more momentum in places such as Canada, Latin America, Europe, and now Saudi Arabia. By pulling in the right partners and setting the stage for more robust and localized conversations, we have grown interest and membership around the globe,” said Al Hutchinson, president and CEO of Visit Baltimore and DI board chair.

An extended audience means an expanded focus, and some of the international attendees were flabbergasted by the lack of environmental initiatives. Many called out single-use plastics found throughout the conference and the lack of help in buying carbon offsets for air travel.

New Convention Center a Game Changer 

Not only was Destinations International’s global scope a focus of its convention, but so was belonging and inclusivity. Many attendees shared their surprise that Dallas, the city that hosted the conference, is home to the nation’s sixth-largest LGBTQ+ population. 

“Dallas is a welcoming, multicultural city with kind people, and I believe many misconceptions were changed during DI,” said Craig Davis, president and CEO of Visit Dallas, adding that many don’t realize that the city has a rich cultural heritage that is both welcoming and inclusive. 

He also shared details about the new $3 billion convention center in the works, with groundbreaking scheduled for 2024 and completion set for 2028. The new center will include 800,000 square feet of interconnected exhibit space and a staggering 105,000-square-foot ballroom. “This is a game changer for Dallas,” David added. “This new convention center will put Dallas on the map as the nation’s preeminent large city meeting and convention destination.”

Dallas Heats Up

This summer’s sweltering temperatures have baked large swathes of the country, and Dallas is no exception. For DI’s State Fair of Texas-themed opening reception, held in the AT&T Discovery District, few took advantage of the DJ set up outdoors in the plaza, choosing instead to retreat to the air-conditioned indoors. “It was about 107 Fahrenheit, definitely on the higher side for Dallas in July. Fortunately, we planned for that with inside as well as outside elements for the party,” said Davis. 

Belonging: Always a Central Theme

With belonging as a conference theme, many voices from outside the industry were featured, including a dynamic opening keynote that featured Cynt Marshall, the CEO of the Dallas Mavericks and the NBA’s first black female CEO.

Another keynote featured Charles M. Blow, the popular New York Times journalist and commentator. Top Peloton instructor Emma Lovewell also took the stage to share tips for living an authentic well-balanced life through healthy eating and an active lifestyle.

Staying true to today’s flourishing meetings and conventions industry, as DI’s conference began to adjourn, a fleet of pink Cadillacs pulled up to the Omni for Mary Kay’s annual conference, assembling 20,000 independent beauty consultants from July 22 to August 6. Visit Dallas estimates Mary Kay’s conference will inject $34.1 million into the local economy this year.