In 2021, 19.1 million visitors traveled to Washington, DC, reaching 77.6 percent of 2019 levels
Washington, DC – Destination DC (DDC), the official destination marketing organization for Washington, DC, today announced efforts to continue the city’s business and leisure travel recovery. Elliott L. Ferguson, II, president and CEO of DDC, outlined strategies across sales and marketing following the announcement of data that shows Washington, DC welcomed 19.1 million total visitors in 2021, up from 13.3 million visitors in 2020.
“DC’s tourism economy is moving forward, so now our role as a short-term economic development organization is to be aggressive with high-impact advertising, attract more conventions and meetings and win back overseas travelers because of their higher spending potential,” said Ferguson. “There is strong investment in DC with exciting reasons to visit from new hotels, dining and nightlife to signature events, free things to do, arts and culture, shopping, sports and much more.”
The organization gathered hundreds of members and stakeholders at its annual Marketing Outlook Meeting, held at the new Waldorf Astoria Washington DC. The property is part of many new offerings for potential travelers that DDC will leverage in the year ahead.
There are more than 26 new hotels or renovations in the pipeline, adding over 5,892 new or renovated rooms in neighborhoods throughout DC. Major events, such as DC JazzFest over Labor Day Weekend (Aug. 31 – Sept. 4), the return of Theatre Week for the first time since the pandemic (Sept. 22 – Oct. 9) and Major League Soccer’s All-Star Game (July 19, 2023) are among numerous opportunities for travel. Additionally, the National Gallery of Art’s East Building reopened in June; the Kennedy Center debuts an interactive permanent exhibit dedicated to President John F. Kennedy (Sept. 17); phase two of the Wharf opens (October); the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum reopens with eight new galleries (Oct. 14) and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden breaks ground on its Sculpture Garden renovation (Nov. 16). In fall 2023, the National Museum of Women in the Arts reopens after a major renovation.
“We spread the word that DC is open – and people heard us,” said DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. “We are very happy to have visitors from across the nation and around the world back in DC – visiting the many attractions in our city, dining in our restaurants, shopping at local businesses, staying in our hotels, and then telling people back home about all the fantastic things to do in Washington, DC. We are going to keep spreading the word that DC is open, and we will keep giving people new ways to enjoy our city – from conferences and concerts, to festivals and 5Ks, and all the other events that bring people together and uplift the values and culture of our community.”
In 2021, 19.1 million visitors traveled to DC, reaching 77.6 percent of 2019 levels. There were 18.8 million domestic visitors (up 44 percent over 2020) and 269,736 overseas visitors (up 21 percent over 2020). Visitors spent $5.4 billion (up 45 percent over 2020) and supported 57,933 local jobs (up 41 percent over 2020).
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.
Throughout the pandemic and ramping up following the borders reopening in November 2021, DDC has concentrated on increasing overseas visitation to Washington, DC, especially in top European markets where recovery potential is likely faster. In 2019, overseas visitors accounted for 7 percent of visitation and 27 percent of the spend, so growing overseas market share through strategic sales and media missions could lead to a greater economic impact for Washington, DC. Typically, top and emerging markets for the nation’s capital include China, the UK, France, Germany, India and Australia.
“Travel’s future is promising and bright,” said Geoff Freeman, incoming president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “With a concerted effort to address today’s headwinds – including slow-to-return business travel and government-induced obstacles for international visitors – we’re confident that Washington, DC and the nation can achieve a full recovery.”
DC’s Convention Outlook
In 2022, there are 19 citywide conventions (defined as meetings bringing 2,500 room nights to the city on peak), with an estimated 394,000 room nights and an estimated economic impact of more than $265,000,000. In 2023 and 2024, the city expects to welcome 18 and 20 citywides, respectively. The team’s Connected positioning makes it easy for customers to understand how to hold more purposeful meetings in DC. The city’s assets facilitate content and exclusive benefits to make conventions successful. With a shorter six-to-nine month booking window, DDC is growing corporate business opportunities to help fill hotels during need period and make an immediate impact. DDC will also maximize the city’s sustainability offerings to attract groups.
The Experience DC advertising campaign (placed by DDC’s media-buying agency of record MMGY Global) targets prospective local, regional and national visitors showing signs of traveling. It is rooted in research of what travelers look for in DC, so targets include eclectic cultural travelers, sports enthusiasts, foodies, historophiles and families. The audience strategy also reaches Black, Hispanic and LGBTQ+ travelers. The campaign includes paid search, advanced streaming TV, digital, custom content with premium travel brands, mobile and digital and out of home. Paid social and influencer marketing are also important components. According to Destination Analysts, more than half of travelers decide to visit a destination after seeing it on their social media account.
The flexible and digital-focused effort connects to washington.org, where consumers find ways to enjoy fall in DC and beyond. Inspirational content includes a family-friendly guide, things to do each month and weekend, free things to do this fall and much more.
*Sources: MMGY Travel Intelligence, IHS Markit, Travel Market Insights, National Travel & Tourism Office, U.S. Department of Commerce
About: DDC, 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
August 30, 2022
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International Media Relations Manager