Stats: Record 22.8 Million Visitors to DC in 2017

Destination DC (DDC) has announced a record 22.8 million total visitors to the nation’s capital in 2017, up 3.6 percent over 2016. Elliott L. Ferguson, II, president and CEO of Destination DC, made the announcement at the organization’s annual Marketing Outlook Meeting held at Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium with city leaders, stakeholders and local tourism and hospitality businesses.

“Washington, DC welcomed 20.8 million domestic visitors last year, up 4.2 percent, and 2 million overseas visitors, up 2.5 percent,” said Ferguson. “We’ve seen eight years of consecutive growth. At the end of the day, what we do to attract visitors is economic development, resulting in $7.5 billion spent by travelers.”

In 2017, tourism directly supported 75,048 DC jobs, up 0.5 percent over 2016 and exceeding 75,000 for the first time since 2013. According to IHS Markit, domestic and international spending was up 3.1percent  and surpassed $7 billion for the third time. Business travel accounted for 41 percent of visitation and 60% of spending. Leisure spending increased by 5.9 percent and business spending was up 1.3 percent.

DDC also announced plans to sustain the momentum of an uptick in visitation by previewing a new advertising campaign called “Discover the Real DC” under its five-year-old “DC Cool” brand. To inform the campaign, DDC worked with Destination Analysts on custom research in its target domestic markets along the East Coast corridor, as well as Chicago and Los Angeles. Eight personas of the visitors likely to visit DC emerged from live interviews and surveys of thousands of consumers.

The personas include: the Eclectic Cultural Traveler, specifically interested in the arts; Family Travelers looking for family education and fun; the Cool Crowd, prioritizing trendy destinations with social media buzz; African-American History Buffs, attracted to destinations with a strong African-American historical significance; LGBTQ, travelers identifying as LGBTQ and for whom a LGBTQ-friendly urban destination is key; Foodies, who seek a notable restaurant scene and celebrity chefs; Political Junkies, attracted to destinations with political significance and wanting to experience where history is made; and Sports Fanatics, intrigued by world-class sports when identifying potential destinations. 

Looking at overseas visitation, China continues to be DC’s top market with 324,000 visitors, up 6.6 percent over 2016. In FY2019, DDC will continue to grow its presence on WeChat and its City Experience Mini Program, as well as its Welcome China member certification program.  

The top 10 overseas markets for Washington, DC in 2017 are, in order of visitation: China, United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea, France, Australia, India, Japan, Spain and Italy. Though overseas visitors represent 9 percent of the total number of visitors to DC, international visitors [overseas visitors plus visitors from Canada and Mexico] represent 27 percent of the visitor spending.

In 2019, DC will welcome 21 citywide conventions and special events (2,500 room nights on peak and above), generating 359,557 total room nights and an estimated economic impact of $341 million. Major events include the American Academy of Dermatology (March 1-5), NAFSA: Association of International Educators (May 28-31), American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics (Oct. 21-25) and American Society of Nephrology (Nov. 8-11).

Washington, DC welcomes new flights and hotel inventory to encourage visitation in the year ahead. New nonstop air service into Dulles International Airport launches from London Stansted (Aug. 22) and Brussels (June 2, 2019) on Primera Air, Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific (Sept. 15) and Tel Aviv on United (May 22, 2019). There are 21 hotels in the pipeline adding 4,764 rooms to the city, including Eaton Workshop and the Moxy Washington, DC Downtown, both anticipated to open this summer.  

New attractions, renovations and exhibits are a draw. The National Law Enforcement Museum opens Oct. 13. In 2019, citywide programming will surround the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. The International Spy Museum moves to L’Enfant Plaza and reopens next spring. The Washington Monument reopens next spring and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s “Fossil Hall” reopens in June. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ expansion (The REACH) opens Sept. 7, 2019.

Source: Destination DC

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