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Industry Briefs

Additional 1 million visitors over 2017 spent $7.8 billion and supported 76,522 local jobs

Destination DC (DDC), the official destination marketing organization for Washington, DC, recently announced that the nation’s capital attracted a record 23.8 million total visitors in 2018, up 4.4% over 2017.  Elliott L. Ferguson, II, president and CEO of DDC, announced the ninth consecutive record year for visitation to the District, and upcoming sales and marketing plans to promote DC at the organization’s annual meeting.

“Our goal as an economic development organization is to drive visitation and create revenue for the District, so we’re thrilled to see the results of an additional 1 million visitors last year,” said Ferguson. “Tourism spending also supported 76,522 jobs{3} in DC across all industries, which is the largest number we’ve seen in 10 years.”

Visitor spending in 2018 was a record $7.8 billion{3}, up 4.3%, resulting in $851 million in local taxes realized by the District. Without tourism, nearly 300,000 DC households would have to contribute an additional $2,844 per household in taxes in order to maintain the current level of tax receipts. Leisure travelers accounted for 61% of visitors and 43% of spending. Leisure spending is up 13%. Business travelers accounted for 39% of visitors and 57% of spending.

“With more to see and do across all eight wards of DC, we are proud to continue welcoming visitors from all around the world,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser. “Whether you are coming to DC for work or fun, we are a city with something for everyone – from sports and theater to world-class dining and museums. We will continue creating new destinations and giving travelers reason to return, because when our tourism industry does well so do our local businesses and workers.”

In 2018, Washington, DC had 21.9 million domestic visitors{1}, up 5.2%. The city welcomed 1.9 million overseas visitors{2} last year, down 5.3%. DC’s top overseas market is China, with 226,000 visitors, down 25%.

“The data{2} shows that Chinese visitation is down to the U.S. overall, especially when it comes to vacation and first-time visitors, which DC tends to see a bigger share of,” said Ferguson. “There are bright spots in the China market, however, with length of stay up 27% and room nights up 72%, so it’s more important than ever to maintain our strong market presence. In addition to leveraging in-market representation in China, India and Australia, we’ll build on the momentum of rebounds as seen in an uptick in visitors from the UK and Brazil.”

DC’s top 10 markets, in order of visitation, are China, the UK, India, Germany, Brazil, Australia, France, South Korea, Italy and Spain. Though overseas visitors only represent 8% of the total number of visitors to DC, international visitors [overseas visitors plus visitors from Canada and Mexico] represent 27% of the visitor spending.

Domestically, DDC also announced a new advertising campaign to drive local and regional business during January and February need periods, typically a slower period for visitation. The new “Stay Local DC” campaign launches in November. It replaces the Date Nights DC campaign that ran for 10 years.

“Stay Local DC focuses on the value of a local trip for consumers,” said Robin A. McClain, senior vice president, marketing and communications. “Whether that’s the convenience of not having to drive home after a night out, or the indulgence of a staycation nearby, messaging and deals will compel locals to play tourist in their backyard.”

Approximately 500 members of the travel and tourism industry joined DDC for its annual state-of-the-industry event. In a nod to development that will help attract visitors, the meeting was held at the REACH, the forthcoming development at The Kennedy Center, opening on Sept. 7, 2019.  

“As Washington’s newest cultural destination, the REACH invites visitors to witness artists at work; to try one’s hand at creativity; or to simply relax and enjoy the stunning architecture, public art, landscapes, and sweeping views—all free, no ticket required,” said Deborah F. Rutter, president, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. “The REACH is a premier venue for performances, events, conferences, and convenings, all of which add value for businesses and individuals visiting our city.”

In 2020, DC will welcome 20 citywide conventions and events (2,500 room nights on peak and above), generating 466,713 total room nights and an estimated economic impact of $360 million. Among them: SAS Global Forum (March 29-April 1), Association for Computing Machinery SIGGRAPH Annual Conference (July 19-23), Joint Triennial Congress of the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (Sept. 7-12) and the National Black MBA Association Annual Conference (Sept. 24-26).

DC has 16 new hotels with over 3,307 rooms in the pipeline. New brands include Thompson Washington DC and the Riggs Washington DC. The Washington Monument reopens Sept. 19, the National Children’s Museum opens Nov. 1 and Planet Word opens next spring. Find events, festivals and free events on .

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