Fewer people in the nation’s capital can brag that they are a “native Washingtonian” and that their history in the city dates back through generations. The effort to attract more people to town has significantly contributed to the decrease of homegrown residents opting to relocate outside of the area or who are displaced due to economic pressures.
Yet, D.C. is full of people; most come here to visit and experience the unique attractions D.C. offers. History plays a large part in making D.C. the number one place tourists like to visit in the U.S., according to U.S. News, which named D.C. Number 1 among the Best Historical Cities to see in the U.S., outpacing Boston, Gettysburg, Pa., Philadelphia and Williamsburg, Va.
Recently, Elliott Ferguson II, president and CEO of Destination DC, reported that Washington, D.C. welcomed 19.1 million total visitors in 2021, up from 13.3 million in 2020. Those numbers were music to the ears of local leaders who value the local tourism industry. Despite the devastating impact of the COVID pandemic that nearly decimated the hospitality industry, D.C. is witnessing the reopening of restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues, to name a few. Workers who rely on tourism to feed and house their families were impacted the most. They are returning with higher wages and more significant opportunities due to more than 26 new hotels or renovations in the pipeline, adding over 5,892 new or renovated rooms in neighborhoods throughout the city. This all means more revenue and jobs for residents.
The crisis has nearly ended and D.C.’s tourism is making a quick comeback. Sports and tourism mogul Sheila Johnson opened the Salamander Hotel, formerly the Mandarin Oriental in Southwest, this week. She touted that the rebranded 373-room property will bring 100 new team members or employees to serve her customers, adding to those who are already employed there. It’s an opportunity to address job opportunities in a city where hospitality is one of the top-ranked employment industries.
We have said and will continue to stress that D.C. leaders must do a better job conveying the message to residents that viable employment opportunities exist in the hospitality industry. Educational programs in the D.C. Public Schools and those at local universities provide a pipeline for careers in hospitality. However, more needs to be done to bring home the fact that residents also have a stake in this. Hospitality and tourism provide employment opportunities that pay well and provide excellent benefits for those who want them.