WASHINGTON, May 6, 2020 – Destination DC (DDC), the official destination marketing organization for DC, and partners today announced the current impact of COVID-19 on the tourism industry and steps toward recovery once travel is safe.
Muriel E. Bowser, mayor of the District of Columbia, joined DDC President and CEO Elliott L. Ferguson, II today for the update.
“When the time comes and we are able to safely reopen our city, I know our community will be eager to support the businesses, sites and restaurants that have made DC one of the top destinations in the world,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser. “The reopening of our city won’t all happen at once, but by thinking ahead and coordinating our recovery efforts, we can protect the health and well-being of our residents and visitors while getting Washingtonians back to work.”
New DC tourism data pre-pandemic gives context for the city’s momentum. According to MMGY Travel Intelligence, in 2019, DC welcomed 22.8 million domestic visitors, up 4.1 percent, resulting in $8.2 billion in visitor spending in 2019, up 4.1 percent. Visitor spending supported 78,266 jobs across all sectors in 2019, up 2.3 percent.
“The results from 2019 show that Washington, DC has made strides with 10 years of tourism growth, but nothing makes up for what we’re currently experiencing,” said Ferguson. “So, we’re focusing on the steps we can take now for recovery as soon as it’s safe, and that includes securing funding for marketing, highlighting the city’s free things to do as a value destination and planning for more advertising within drive markets as consumer confidence in travel rebuilds.”
Additional 2019 data IHS Markit shows that visitation created $896 million in local taxes for the District (up 5.4 percent) and if tourism did not exist in DC, an average of $2,920 from each of the 307,000 DC households would be needed in order to maintain the current level of tax receipts.
Today’s update was held during National Travel and Tourism Week.
“Travel and tourism is going to be a crucial vehicle for bringing back jobs and economic activity once we have clear guidance that the health crisis is dissipating,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “For that reason, it’s still the right moment to celebrate the spirit of travel even as the industry is enduring one of its biggest challenges ever. We have to attend to the health and safety of our communities first, but we also need to be prepared to help power an economic recovery when the moment is right.”
Robust sales and marketing will position DC for recovery. An independent ROI Study conducted by Destination Analysts and developed with DC’s CFO office showed that for every $1 DDC spent on “Discover the Real DC” spring and summer advertising in 2019, $3.03 came back to the city, which is the highest return yet.
“We have to be aggressive and fight to win consumers back, and it starts in our own backyard and region,” said Robin A. McClain, senior vice president, marketing and communications. “From the ROI study, we know our advertising had been resonating, and when we’re able to go back to market, it will target locals, the drive market and a national audience as we compete with other destinations all vying for the same consumers.”
DDC has seen at least 22 cancellations of large-scale events resulting in an economic hit of $163 million. Its sales team continues to secure future business, and recently won the bid to host the 2027 Lions Clubs International Convention over July 4th. The first-time group anticipates an economic impact of $14.9 million from 25,000 attendees and nearly 30,000 total room nights.
“Hospitality and tourism has been the backbone of DC’s economy. In our role as the convention and sports authority for the city, Events DC remains dedicated to providing support and aid to our local restaurant, hotel and destination partners in helping our city get back on its feet, when the time is ready,” said Gregory A. O’Dell, president and chief executive officer of Events DC. “The $18 million hospitality and tourism relief package that we announced is one critical example in helping to fuel recovery.”
“This week, we honor the spirit of travel, the strength and resilience of the tourism industry, and the millions of Americans whose jobs it is to deliver travel experiences,” said Chris Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA. “As we look toward the future, we know travel will be an integral part of our economic recovery, re-employing millions, and re-engaging with the world. Until then, Brand USA remains focused on supporting our partners as they navigate a new normal and we’re committed to delivering inspirational content about U.S. destinations.”
DDC continues to provide inspiration by highlighting virtual content and creating a sense of community on social media through #DCtogether. Content on washington.org/dctogether includes Things to Do This Weekend: Stay Home Edition, DC Restaurant Delivery and Carry Out Guide and How to Show Your Support for DC and Local Businesses.