DC’s 2021 domestic visitation is 18.8 million, visitor spending and jobs supported by tourism remain down
Washington, DC – Destination DC (DDC), local and national partners today announced efforts to attract more visitors back to Washington, DC during its annual Travel Rally, held at Union Market in Northeast DC. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser joined DDC President and CEO Elliott L. Ferguson, II and industry leaders to discuss DC’s visitor forecast, data from 2021 and DDC’s marketing and convention and tourism sales efforts. Tourism and hospitality stakeholders joined as part of an in-person audience for the first time since 2019.
“DC's tourism industry recovery is underway, as domestic visitation outpaced our initial forecast, but visitor spending and jobs created through tourism are not recovering as quickly,” said Ferguson. “I thank Mayor Bowser and City Council for recognizing that the key for us to make up ground begins with additional funding to market our destination. Welcoming back business meetings and overseas travelers are also crucial factors to recovery.”
“In 2019, we welcomed nearly 25 million visitors to our city. They came for work, for vacations, for field trips, and while they were here they stayed at our hotels, shopped at local businesses, and ate at our restaurants. For us, that means jobs for our residents and it means revenue that we can re-invest into our neighborhoods. So, we’re focused now on making sure people know DC is open and bringing tourists back to DC,” said Mayor Bowser. “And while tourism is good for our economy, this is also about bringing people back together and enjoying all the things that make living in and visiting our beautiful city a great experience.”
According to new data*, in 2021, DC’s domestic visitation was 18.8 million (up 44% over 2020; down 17.5% over 2019). Visitors to DC in 2021 spent $5.4 billion (up 45% over 2020; down 34% over 2019) and supported 57,933 local jobs (up 41% over 2020; down 27% over 2019).
Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, DC welcomed 24.6 million total visitors (22.8 million domestic; 1.8 million overseas) who generated $8.2 billion for the local economy and supported 79,675 jobs across all sectors.
DDC’s Travel Rally is held annually during U.S. Travel Association’s National Travel and Tourism Week, which is a time to celebrate the importance of travel to communities across the U.S. According to U.S. Travel, prior to the pandemic, travel supported one in 10 U.S. jobs. Nationally, international inbound spending remains down 78 percent from pre-pandemic levels and domestic business travel spending is 56 percent below 2019 levels. Total overseas visitation to the U.S. will likely not reach 2019 levels until 2025.
“Travel is crucial to driving an economic and jobs recovery here in DC and in communities around the country, but such a recovery is only possible if all sectors of travel come back quickly and evenly,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “International and business travel, in particular, have been slow to return, and today’s rally highlights the need to advance policies to more broadly reopen travel and restore all components of this industry.”
DC’s Convention Outlook
In 2022, there are 19 total citywide conventions (defined as meetings bringing 2,500 room nights to the city on peak), with an estimated 394,000 total room nights and an estimated economic impact of more than $265,000,000. The convention sales and services team attracts customers through Connected positioning, focusing on the benefits of meeting in DC that no other city can claim – like access to policymakers, expert speakers and leaders in key industries including tech, biotech/pharma, education and medical.
DDC’s Experience DC advertising campaign, which first debuted in summer 2021, re-launched this April. Target markets include local, regional and national visitors showing signs of traveling. The advertising identifies potential travelers based on research of what they’re looking for, including sports and culture enthusiasts, foodies, history buffs and families. The audience strategy also targets Black, Hispanic and LGBTQ+ travelers. Phase one of the campaign includes paid search, streaming, digital, paid social and more. Phase two, launching this month, includes custom content with premium travel brands, mobile, unique digital creative development, out of home and influencer marketing. The campaign is placed by DDC’s media buying agency of record, MMGY Global. The flexible and digital-focused effort connects to washington.org, where consumers find ways to enjoy summer in DC and beyond. Inspirational content includes a family-friendly vacation guide, waterfront activities, great patios for eating and drinking and much more.
DEI Fellowship Program
DDC launched an inaugural DEI Business Fellowship program in January 2022 to support local businesses owned by people of color, LGBTQ+, women and disabled persons. Fellows receive a free, one-year membership to DDC, which provides access to marketing support and networking opportunities. The class of 2022 DEI fellows includes Chef Dina Daniel, founder and owner of Fava Pot, who reflected on the program and what increased tourism means to her business at the event. “DC is a place with cultural curiosity – locals and visitors have a menu of options for food, music, art, and the list goes on,” said Daniel. “The diversity of cultures in one place is unique and has provided a welcoming place to open our doors. We know tourism is essential to our business where we see a cultural exchange every day. I’m proud to be part of the small businesses in DC that help build connections and relationships with people while showcasing the diversity of the nation's capital.”
Upcoming in DC
Visitors find value in DC and can expect a great summer experience with more than 100 free things to do, compelling hotel deals, free festivals and Michelin-starred restaurants (from the latest Michelin Guide released May 4, 2022). This summer, DC welcomes beloved in-person events and festivals back for the first time since 2019 including Cultural Tourism’s Passport DC and embassy tours, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Capital Pride, Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle, Citi Open, DC JazzFest and more. New, Pharrell’s Something in the Water music festival will be held on Pennsylvania Avenue over Juneteenth weekend.
*Sources: MMGY Travel Intelligence, IHS Markit, Travel Market Insights, National Travel & Tourism Office, U.S. Department of Commerce
Destination DC, the official destination marketing organization for the nation’s capital, is a private, non-profit membership organization committed to marketing the area as a premier global convention, tourism and special events destination with a special emphasis on the arts, cultural and historic communities. washington.org
Danielle Davis, director of communications, 202-603-2093 (c); [email protected]
Julie Marshall, domestic media relations manager, 941-592-8425 (c); [email protected]
Susan O’Keefe, trade media relations manager; 202-789-7079; [email protected]
Nicole Nussbaum, international media relations manager; 202-789-7053; [email protected]
May 3, 2022