A record 22.8 million total visitors came to the nation’s capital last year, up 3.6 percent over 2016, according to D.C.’s official destination marketing organization.
Elliott L. Ferguson, II, president and CEO of Destination DC, confirmed the banner year for D.C.’s tourism industry at the organization’s annual Marketing Outlook Meeting held at Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium on Tuesday, Aug. 28 with city leaders, stakeholders and local tourism and hospitality businesses.
“Washington, D.C., welcomed 20.8 million domestic visitors last year, up 4.2 percent, and 2 million overseas visitors, up 2.5 percent,” Ferguson said. “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 supported 75,048 D.C. 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 3.1 percent and surpassed $7 billion for the third time. Business travel accounted for 41 percent of visitation and 60 percent of spending.
Leisure spending increased by 5.9 percent and business spending was up 1.3 percent, Destination DC said.
“Growing tourism is good for local business and good for Washingtonians,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser. “When visitors choose D.C. — when they dine out in our restaurants, stay in our hotels, and visit our local neighborhoods — we’re able to spread prosperity and build more pathways to the middle class for residents across all eight wards.”
DDC also announced plans to sustain the momentum by previewing a new advertising campaign, “Discover the Real DC,” under its five-year-old “DC Cool” brand. To create 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 D.C. 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 want to experience where history is made; and Sports Fanatics, intrigued by world-class sports when identifying potential destinations.
“The research allows us to be more nimble with our marketing and speak directly to the interests of consumers,” said Robin A. McClain, DDC senior vice president of marketing and communications. “Washington, D.C., has the experiences visitors are looking for, whether it’s history, a diverse and welcoming atmosphere or a buzzy Michelin-rated dining scene.”