Destination DC (DDC) today announced that Washington, DC attracted a record 21.9 million domestic visitors in 2018, the ninth consecutive year for tourism growth. Elliott L. Ferguson, II, president and CEO of DDC, announced tourism’s impact on DC with city leaders and stakeholders at the organization’s annual Travel Rally.
“An additional 1.1 million domestic visitors to DC year-over-year is a big deal for the city,” said Ferguson. “As we market the city through our ‘Discover the Real DC campaign,’ we continue to show potential visitors that there’s so much more to see and do in Washington, DC beyond the federal government and build on our momentum that’s sustaining visitation to the city.”
Visitor spending in 2018 amounted to a record $7.8 billion, according to IHS Markit, 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 DC tax receipts. In looking at spending further, leisure travelers accounted for 61% of visitors and 43% of spending. Leisure spending is up 13% year-over-year. Business travelers accounted for 39% of visitors and 57% of spending. In 2018, tourism spending supported 76,522 jobs in Washington, DC across all industries, which is up 2% over 2017.
“The continued growth of our city’s tourism industry reflects the overall strength and success of Washington, DC,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser. “From sporting events to restaurants to music venues and museums, we have more to do and see in our city than ever before. We’re proud to welcome people from around the world – to show them the city that is home to more than 700,000 Washingtonians, to create jobs and opportunity for our local businesses, and to share the history and culture that has made DC the best city in the world.”
DDC’s Travel Rally was held in support of National Travel and Tourism Week, which is designed to generate awareness about the economic importance of travel. The U.S. Travel Association, which Ferguson currently chairs, coordinates resources for use during National Travel and Tourism Week.
“Destination DC’s Travel Rally showed that the benefits of travel are felt locally, but the importance of travel is national,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “Last year, travel spending generated $2.5 trillion in economic output and supported 15.7 million American jobs. Travel also generated a $69 billion trade surplus in 2018—ranking travel as America’s largest services export and second-largest export overall.”
Chris Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA, addressed how the destination marketing organization for the U.S. is vying for more international visitors.
“Destination DC is a valued partner. Together, we show international travelers the hidden gems of our nation’s capital, including and beyond the monuments and museums to its neighborhoods, its music culture, and its ever-expanding culinary scene,” said Thompson. “Whether we’re hosting visiting journalists or the travel trade, or featuring DC’s story in a global marketing campaign, we’re always looking for ways to highlight all that makes DC a world class travel destination.”
The announcement’s location, Woodrow Wilson Plaza, was selected in part for the anticipated National Children’s Museum expected to open in the Ronald Reagan Building on Nov. 1 and its draw to help attract family travelers.
“We’re excited to have the National Children’s Museum join us, it’s a great fit,” said John Drew, president and CEO of TCMA (A Drew Company), the exclusive manager of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. “The building is a downtown destination, we already welcome over a million visitors a year; our location is near the National Mall and offers onsite metro, parking and food court, providing easy access and convenience for visitors.”
Visitors find many reasons to come to Washington, DC in 2019 and beyond on washington.org: the International Spy Museum reopens at L’Enfant Plaza (May 12), DC Bike Ride (May 18), 15th anniversary of the DC Jazz Festival (June 7-16), reopening of the “David H. Koch Hall of Fossils – Deep Time” at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum (June 8), 2019 Citi Open tennis tournament (July 27 – Aug. 4), reopening of the Washington Monument (August), opening of The REACH at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Sept. 7) and opening of the National Children’s Museum at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center (Nov. 1).
In 2019, Washington, DC welcomes 20 citywide meetings (meetings with 2,500 room nights on peak and above), generating more than 370,000 total room nights. Sixteen hotels in the pipeline will add 3,263 rooms to the city.