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Washington Tourism Makes a Strong Comeback

Washington DC tourism news 2023

Washington Tourism Makes a Strong Comeback

Destination DC (DDC), the official destination marketing organization for the nation’s capital, shared optimistic news about the city’s tourism sector during its annual Marketing Outlook Meeting at the Warner Theatre. Against the backdrop of a fresh advertising campaign, the organization announced a promising return to pre-pandemic visitation levels.

“In 2022, the city welcomed 21.9 million visitors, including 1.2 million international visitors. That means domestic visitation has rebounded to 91 percent of pre-pandemic figures, while international visitation has rebounded to 60 percent,” stated DDC.

Elliott L. Ferguson, II, President and CEO of DDC, acknowledged the ongoing recovery and emphasized the importance of both domestic and international tourism. He said, “We knew domestic travelers would return quicker than those from international markets, and when domestic travelers are considering where to spend their money, the data tells us DC is a top choice.”

“The data also tells us we must continue enticing international travelers to return. With support from the tourism recovery district legislation, we will continue to win back global travelers with higher spending potential. That matters because visitors directly support local jobs and contribute to the quality of life for residents,” Ferguson added.

International visitors typically comprise seven percent of total visitation but account for 27 percent of spending. “The 1.2 million international visitors represent a 279 percent year-to-year increase,” according to DDC.

DDC also revealed plans to sustain the positive momentum, nationwide and abroad, by previewing a new advertising campaign: “There’s Only One DC.” The branding positions the destination as wholly unique. “DC matches other world-class cities in dining, nightlife, arts, culture, sports, theater, outdoor activities, and green spaces. But no other destination in the country can compete with DC’s monuments, museums, memorials, and free things to do,” said DDC.

Mayor Muriel Bowser expressed her excitement for the campaign, saying, “It is true: there is only one place in the world like Washington, DC.”

Robin A. McClain, DDC’s Chief Marketing Officer, highlighted the campaign’s purpose, saying, “It’s been extensively tested and researched, and the visuals purposefully blend what DC is known for with hidden gems. Through additional funding and a strategy rooted in research with MMGY Global, our advertising agency of record, we’ll reach more potential travelers than ever.”

This campaign aligns with DDC’s current efforts to market the city for meetings and conventions under its “Connected” platform, which focuses on assets for meeting planners found only in Washington, DC.

From Michelin-starred restaurants to James Beard Award-winning chefs and world-renowned mixologists, DC’s locally sourced dining scene has incredible momentum. The city is also undergoing a hotel renaissance, with 19 new hotels and more than 3,500 additional rooms in the pipeline. Major events, including DC JazzFest (Aug. 30-Sept. 3), Theatre Week (Sept. 29-Oct. 8), and the World Culture Festival (Sept. 29-Oct. 1) are expected to bring hundreds of thousands of people to the city. Additionally, a landmark museum reopens this fall following years-long renovations: the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Visitation Data*:

  • In 2022, DC welcomed 21.9 million total visitors (20.7 domestic; 1.2 million international).
  • In 2021, DC welcomed 19.1 million total visitors (18.8 million domestic; 320,000 international).
  • Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, DC welcomed 24.8 million total visitors (22.8 million domestic; 2.0 million international).
  • In summary, total visitation is up 14.6 percent year-to-year but down 11.7 percent compared to 2019.

Visitation Impact:

  • Visitors spent $8.1 billion in 2022.
  • Up 50.8 percent over 2021 (99 percent of 2019 levels).
  • Taxes generated by visitor spending: record $1.6 billion.
  • Up 58.7 percent over 2021 and surpassing 2019 levels by 1.6 percent.
  • Visitors supported a record 84,111 jobs.
  • Up 45 percent over 2021 and surpassing 2019 levels by 7.5 percent.
  • 71,197 jobs are directly related to the industry; the rest are indirect/induced jobs resulting from increased visitation.