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Industry Briefs

Twenty-Two Million Visitors Spent $7.3 Billion in 2016

Destination DC (DDC) recently announced a record 22 million total visitors to Washington, DC in 2016, up 3.3% over 2015. DDC president and CEO Elliott L. Ferguson confirmed the impact of tourism at the organization's annual Marketing Outlook Meeting attended by city leaders and 500 members of the tourism and hospitality industries. He also shared plans to market the nation's capital to domestic and international business and leisure travelers in the year ahead.   

"Washington, DC had record tourism for the seventh consecutive year. Tourism is an economic engine for the District of Columbia, creating a $7.3 billion economic impact in 2016 according to IHS Markit and supporting 74,654 jobs," said Ferguson. 

He also stated that DDC's FY18 budget will grow to $23 million due to an increase in the city's hotel tax from 14.5% to 14.8%. Based on occupancy projections, the organization will receive approximately $3 million in additional funding which will be used for sales and marketing. The larger budget will include more international marketing to help leverage hosting IPW for the first time (June 3-7, 2017), the largest generator of international travel to the U.S. IPW is expected to bring an additional 1 million international visitors generating an economic impact of $1.7 billion to DC by 2020, per Rockport Analytics. 

"The increase in our funding comes at a crucial time for Destination DC to extend IPW's impact and continue reaching international travelers with the message that they are welcome in Washington, DC," said Ferguson.

"Washington, DC is happy to host millions of tourists from around the world every year. Many people know DC as the nation's capital, and while we proudly hold that title, we also want tourists to know that there is much more. In addition to the many museums and monuments that tell our country's history, the District is home to vibrant neighborhoods full of local history, a booming restaurant scene, and sports and entertainment," said Mayor Muriel Bowser. "Tourism plays a vital role in supporting local businesses and creating jobs for our residents, and it has helped make DC's economy one of the strongest local economies in the country."

In 2016, Washington, DC welcomed 20.0 million domestic visitors, up 3.6% according to DK Shifflet. There were 2.0 million overseas visitors in 2016, down 1.7%, according to Travel Market Insights. The U.S. Department of Commerce released that U.S. visitation decreased by 2.1% in 2016.

China continues to be DC's top overseas market with 304,000 visitors, up 1.3% over 2015. In FY18, DDC will grow its Welcome China member certification program. India is now DC's fifth overseas market, up 24.5% over 2015 and 75% since 2013 when it was ninth. With new direct service that launched on Air India in July, DDC anticipates even more growth potential and will complete a sales and media mission there this fall. The top ten overseas markets for Washington, DC in 2016 are, in order of visitation: China, United Kingdom, Germany, France, India, South Korea, Australia, Italy, Spain and Japan. Though overseas visitors represent 9% of the total number of visitors to DC, international visitors [overseas visitors plus visitors from Canada and Mexico] represent 28% of the visitor spending.

Washington, DC will welcome 21 citywide conventions and special events in FY18, with 422,434 room nights and a total economic impact of $361 million. Events include True Value Company's Spring Reunion (Feb. 9-12), American Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgery's Annual Symposium (April 13-15), World Conference of the International Gas Union (June 25-29), the MLB All-Star Game and Week (July 13-17), Inforum (Sept. 24-27) and American Geophysical Union's Fall Meeting (Dec. 10-14).

DDC continues to market the city through its DC Cool brand, from content and advertising to social media and editorial. The tourism bureau launched a series of 360° videos with virtual-reality (VR) capabilities on Visitors to the Discover DC in 360° landing page can explore nearly 40 one-minute-long immersive videos from their desktop, smart phone or tablet. The videos will also be used in dynamic advertising units and at trade shows. Social media engagement and user-generated content through #MyDCcool, a hashtag used nearly 200,000 times, provides authentic inspiration for travelers.

In the year ahead, DC's landscape will see major changes with $11.8 billion in development underway and more than 4,000 hotel rooms in the pipeline. The Wharf opens Oct. 12, transforming the Southwest Waterfront with three new hotels, 20 restaurants, a water taxi, four public piers and three live music venues. DC's Michelin Guide to its restaurants will be re-issued in October. Smithsonian's Freer|Sackler galleries reopen Oct. 14. Museum of the Bible opens Nov. 17. The Women's Voices Theater Festival returns Jan. 15-Feb. 15. For more cultural highlights, visit

DDC thanks event sponsors: Big Bus Tours, Museum of the Bible, Event Photography of North America Corp., Washington Business Journal, District Wharf, Simon Malls, Genetic and RSVP Catering.