Dallas Wants Hotel Tax Hike to Pay for New Convention Center

Voters will decide in November whether the city's occupancy tax will rise by 2 percentage points. 

dallas convention center rendering
A brand-new convention center will be built in Dallas.

The Dallas City Council has agreed to put a measure on the November ballot calling for a 2 percentage-point rise in the hotel occupancy tax. Currently, guests in city hotels pay 7 percent to Dallas and 6 percent to the state, for a total of 13 percent; properties with 100 or more rooms apply an extra 2 percent Tourism Public Improvement District tax for marketing purposes, for a total of 15 percent.

Should voters approve the measure, the extra funds collected from visitors will help pay for a new convention center, as well as further tourism improvements in Dallas. The three-mile radius around the convention center is a "project-financing zone," which allows the city to keep all of the taxes generated within that zone.

The city council approved plans in February to build a new, 2.5-million-square-foot convention center adjacent to the current Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Dallas. The new facility will feature 800,000 square feet of exhibit space and 400,000 square feet of breakout space, including a 100,000-square-foot ballroom. Construction is expected to begin in 2024, with a projected opening date in 2028.

"This news is a game-changer for Dallas and will put our city on the map as the preeminent large-city convention and meeting destination in the nation," Craig Davis, president and CEO of Visit Dallas, said when the new facility was announced. "The center will be the anchor for a lively new Convention Center District that will excite convention-goers and revitalize southern downtown Dallas, making it a place for locals to enjoy alongside our convention attendees."

The new center will feature large, elevated ballrooms with outdoor event terraces featuring views of the Trinity River and downtown. The reimagined Convention Center District — with restaurants, retail, lodging and entertainment options — will connect downtown Dallas with neighboring entertainment districts, such as Cedars and the planned Rail District, creating a walkable destination designed to attract both locals and visitors.

"Dallas is already a great meetings and conventions destination, with the accessibility of two major airports, affordable labor and an outstanding hotel product," said D. Bradley Kent, senior vice president and chief sales officer of the city's convention and visitors bureau. "The new center and Convention Center District will enhance Dallas' competitive position and put us on par with other destinations that have already invested in their buildings."

The new convention center will address the needs of modern meeting planners, providing ballroom and breakout space Dallas has been lacking. The center is expected to nearly double annual attendance and associated revenue for the city.