D.C. Mayor leaves “Destination D.C.” high and dry

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D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty’s $5.7 billion budget for 2009 – which was approved last week by the D.C. Council – does not include funding to help lure visitors to the city.

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D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty’s $5.7 billion budget for 2009 – which was approved last week by the D.C. Council – does not include funding to help lure visitors to the city.

Destination D.C., the city’s main marketing arm that also books conventions, had originally requested $10 million in city funding to help extend a new marketing campaign it launched last month. Ultimately, discussions with the deputy mayor’s and city administrator’s offices led to settling on $5 million.

“So we assumed $5 million was going to be in the mayor’s budget,” said Bill Hanbury, chief executive of Destination D.C.

“We’re disappointed.”

Tourism is a major industry for the city, which welcomes 15 million visitors annually, who spend who more than $5.2 billion at hotels, restaurants, attractions and shopping venues. Their spending generates more than $560 million in tax dollars.

Destination D.C.’s new $2 million campaign aims to better position the city against competitors that outspend it on marketing, such as Las Vegas, Boston and Orlando. Its budget carries the marketing through the summer with efforts that include two weeks of TV spots, which started May 12 in New York, Pittsburgh and Raleigh; as well as online advertising with Travelocity, TripAdvisor, Sherman’s Travel and Gothamist.com. Those begin May 19 and run through the summer.

During an April event to launch the campaign, Fenty said he was committed to pumping more money into the effort through direct appropriations or private contributions.

Now, the latter appears to be the most likely option, and Destination D.C.’s board of directors will be discussing next steps.

The organization might look to companies such as American Express and major hotel chains like Bethesda-based Marriott International, to help support the new brand, Hanbury said. Airlines, such as United, as well as Amtrak, already provide in-kind support to Destination D.C., but he said that pales in comparison to what public sector support could provide.


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