Washington, DC domestic visitation forecast anticipates 20 million domestic visitors in 2022, reaching 87 percent of pre-pandemic levels
(Washington, DC) – Destination DC (DDC), the official destination marketing organization for Washington, DC, today provided an update on advertising, convention and tourism sales strategies to attract more business and leisure travelers to Washington, DC and support local tourism and hospitality industry businesses.
Elliott L. Ferguson, II, president and CEO of DDC, addressed a hybrid audience of tourism and hospitality industry professionals at the organization’s annual Marketing Outlook Meeting, held at Capital Turnaround, a historic venue in Navy Yard. “As a short-term economic development organization, all of our efforts focus on tourism recovery to positively impact visitor spending and local tax revenue, as well as local businesses and jobs,” said Ferguson. “The keys for us are having advertising in market, knowing the November timeline for welcoming overseas visitors to Washington, DC, and anticipating a full convention calendar in 2022 and beyond. We appreciate the additional $5 million in funding from Mayor Bowser and City Council to market our destination as we compete for our share of visitors.”
Mayor Muriel Bowser spoke about the importance of tourism to the local economy. “DC is open and ready for our comeback,” said Mayor Bowser. “One day at a time, we are finding a new normal that works for Washington, DC. In doing so, we are going to be able to bring back jobs, welcome back visitors and give more people a fantastic DC experience.”
The Experience DC recovery advertising campaign funded by Events DC launched in June. Initial data through August shows that the campaign has garnered more than 24 million engagements - which include actions such as video completions, clicks to washington.org and on-platform engagements. Data partners tracking consumer behavior indicate that searches, bookings and arrivals have consistently increased since the beginning of the campaign. Advertising placements connect to washington.org, contributing to a 35 percent increase in traffic year-over-year. Last month alone, the advertising drove 20 percent more site traffic. Prospective visitors to the site find dynamic content, including a new visual presentation of theater, fall deals, free things to do, things to do this month and weekend, and an update on the latest travel guidelines. DDC’s marketing and communications team is also connecting with consumers on social media, where the organization has seen its highest consumer engagement to date, and through extensive editorial coverage of the city in top domestic, international, trade and local outlets.
DDC’s convention sales and services team is working with customers to communicate health and safety standards that facilitate holding safe in-person meetings in the city. This fall, DC welcomes three professional citywide conventions, starting with the Association of the United States Army (Oct. 11-13, 2021), anticipating 20,000 delegates with an estimated economic impact of $20.1 million. Association for Financial Professionals is Nov. 7-10, 2021 and American Speech-Language-Hearing Association is Nov. 18-20, 2021.
In calendar year 2022, there are 20 citywide conventions scheduled with 390,086 room nights anticipated. The team is focused on what sets DC apart. It has strengthen the “Connected” positioning, demonstrating how easy it is to incorporate regional experts from thriving industries in meetings and events, while highlighting DC’s unique venues and walkability. New dynamic marketing pieces and videos from industry thought leaders highlight DC’s assets. The “Connected Community” is another new effort to work with groups on their social impact goals, so meetings in DC can have a positive long-term effect on residents.
DDC is working with partners, including Events DC, Capital One Arena, Monumental Sports, DC United and the Washington Football Team, to bid on major sporting events that provide positive economic impact to the District. On Oct. 23, USA Rugby plays the New Zealand All Blacks at FedEx Field, expecting to draw approximately 40,000 attendees with 16,000 room nights in the DC area. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon is Nov. 13. The city’s bid to host the FIFA World Cup 2026 is underway.
Visitor Data & Forecast
According to Tourism Economics and MMGY Travel Intelligence, Washington, DC is forecasted to have 16 million domestic visitors in 2021 and 20 million domestic visitors by 2022, reaching 87 percent of pre-pandemic domestic visitor numbers. The company forecasts that total overseas visitation to the U.S. will not reach 2019 levels until 2025.
“We focus on overseas travelers because of economics. In 2019, they were only 7 percent of visitation, but made up 27 percent of the spend,” said Ferguson. “While it may take longer for a full rebound, we know international visitors are staying longer and spending more, benefiting the city.”
Visitation and visitor spending had been on a 10-year upward trajectory prior to the pandemic’s start in 2020. In 2020, Washington, DC welcomed 13.3 million total visitors, down 46 percent from 2019 (sources: MMGY Travel Intelligence, Travel Market Insights, National Travel & Tourism Office, U.S. Department of Commerce). According to IHS Markit, visitor spending was $3.7 billion in 2020, down 55 percent, supporting 41,000 jobs (down 48 percent).
DDC’s tourism team will continue to work with its international offices to ensure DC is top of mind as international borders begin reopening to travel in November. With representation in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, China and India, the DDC team has fueled the interest in DC through editorial coverage and connecting with travel agents and tour operators around the globe to promote the nation’s capital through its Travel Agent Academy content and other programs.
New in DC
There are new promotional opportunities ahead across DC’s dining and nightlife, hotels, attractions, theater, arts and culture and museums. On the development front, the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge opened to pedestrians and vehicular traffic, providing more connectivity across the Anacostia River. Black Lives Matter Plaza is undergoing a renovation that is expected to be complete this fall. Projects on the National Mall include the Korean War Veterans Memorial construction and Lincoln Memorial rehabilitation in advance of its centennial in 2022.
The city has 29 hotels and 5,800 additional rooms in the pipeline. Openings in 2022 include Washington DC NoMa District Curio by Hilton, citizen Washington DC NoMa, AC Hotel Capitol Riverfront and Pendry Hotel Washington D.C. as part of phase two of the Wharf development.
Across 2021-2022, arts and culture milestones include the 175th anniversary of the Smithsonian and reopening of the Arts and Industries Building; the 100th anniversary of The Phillips Collection; the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Center; the 160th anniversary of Emancipation Day and the Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Celebration.
About Destination DC: 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.
Danielle Davis, director of communications
202-603-2093 (c); [email protected]
Julie Marshall, domestic media relations manager
941-592-8425 (c); [email protected]
September 28, 2021