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Washington, DC welcomed record 20.2 million visitors

  • Published by Ozgur Tore

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The economic influence of Washington, DC’s travel and tourism industry was heralded last week at Destination DC’s Marketing Outlook Meeting at the Marriott Marquis Washington, DC. In 2014, DC attracted an all-time record 20.2 million visitors: 18.34 domestic and 1.9 million overseas, the latter up 16% over 2013. Tourism supports almost 75,000 jobs in the District and created $725 million dollars in tax revenue. Without it, each DC household would have to contribute an additional $2,500.

The annual marketing summit, themed “Millennials and the Future of Travel,” drew nearly 500 area hospitality professionals to hear Destination DC president and CEO Elliott L. Ferguson, Washington, DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and other industry leaders outline year-ahead strategies to draw domestic and international travelers to Washington, DC in 2016 and beyond.

The top ten markets for overseas visitors to Washington, DC are, in order of visitors: China, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, India, South Korea, Brazil, Japan and Italy. Destination DC’s tourism department works closely with international airlines, and offers incentives with the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority to encourage connecting passengers who might otherwise connect directly to add stopovers for the purpose of experiencing the nation’s capital.

Washington, DC also enjoyed an 8% increase in overall market share of overseas visitors to the United States. In 2014, 5.4% of overseas visitors to the United States came to DC during their trip. Visitors to DC spent $6.8 billion, according to IHS Global, Inc., a year-over-year increase of 1.9%. Though 9% of the total number of visitors to DC, international visitors [overseas visitors plus visitors from Canada and Mexico] represent 27% of the visitor spending, an average of $518 per stay, up 10% from 2013.

Destination DC also announced plans to revitalize its marketing campaign, DC Cool, by focusing on millennial travelers and user generated content with an increased emphasis on social media. Engaging partners, members and the public, the #MyDCCool campaign will build momentum and increase photos and positive commentary about the city. Destination DC’s Facebook account reaches 315, 112 fans. In the last 12 months, Destination DC’s Instagram following increased by more than 567%; the @washingtondc Twitter account increased its followers by 28% and generated 19.4 million impressions.

Since launching DC Cool in late 2013, Destination DC members, consumers and media have embraced the campaign. Lonely Planet named Washington, DC the world’s “top city in to visit in 2015.” Looking for fresh ways to engage visitors on mobile devices, FY15, Washington, DC became the first tourism office to offer bit-mojis. A new set of 24 DC Emoji will launch in FY16.

Destination DC will receive an additional $3 million earmark in funding exclusively for marketing from the Mayor’s office. “Our FY15 ROI study shows for every dollar spent on advertising, we recouped $2.54 in taxes from visitor spending, up from $1.77 in FY2013,” said Ferguson.

Between 2015 and 2016, the city will host many notable meetings including 15 citywide and 13 miniwide conventions, including the American Alliance of Museums over the Memorial Day weekend, a traditional need-period. Destination DC’s domestic and international sales forces are focused far beyond 2016, securing business as far into the future as 2033.

Washington, DC’s events calendar shows no signs of slowing down. Major events in the next year include the premier for the Landmark Music Festival on the National Mall; the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture; new hotel inventory such as the Watergate Hotel and the Trump Hotel at The Old Post Office; as well as major milestones: the 75th anniversary of the National Gallery of Art and centennial of the National Park Service. In 2016, NCAA basketball returns to the Verizon Center with the ACC conference championship and with it and estimated economic impact of $60 million dollars.

New and refreshed hotel, attraction and transportation inventory are significant draws for tour operators. In 2017, the U.S. Travel Association will host IPW in Washington, DC for the first time. The largest annual international trade show for people who book travel to the US, IPW is expected to inspire 1 million new international visitors and $1 billion in increased visitor spending within three years of the DC conclave.

“The city is being revitalized with $9.2 billion in physical developments, a robust calendar of conventions and cultural and sporting events,” said Ferguson. “These developments put people to work while giving visitors a rich experience and new reasons to return.”

For more information about Washington, DC, please visit www.washington.org.

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