Destination D.C. scored $3 million in funding in the city’s fiscal 2013 budget, marking the first time the District has allocated money to the annual operating budget of the chief tourism bureau.
The D.C. City Council voted Tuesday 13 to 0 in favor of the $9.4 billion budget, which takes affect Oct. 1. As part of the plan, the council appropriated money for direct marketing efforts by Destination D.C. The money is not intend for general operations, just an addition to its existing marketing spend.
Funds will be funneled through Events D.C., which oversees the Walter E. Convention Center and will enter into a performance-based contract with the tourism bureau.
The city has occasionally provided Destination D.C. grants for one-time projects, but nothing of this magnitude and regularity, according to Destination D.C. Chairman Gregory McCarthy.
“Direct appropriation will allow us to plan ahead and begin doubling our marketing efforts in the fall,” he said. “This is a great validation of the fact that Washington is now a world class city in terms of travel promotion.”
As it stands, Destination D.C. receives less than 1 percent of the city’s hotel tax revenue to fund its $13.8 million budget. The bureau has long argued that its budget is a pittance compared to that of other major markets, which places the city at a disadvantage in attracting large conventions and events.
New York City, for instance, has an operating tourism budget of $35.2 million, while Orlando boasts $49.8 million to promote the city to potential visitors.
“Our previous funding structure was set up a dozen years ago and did its job, but this new construct reflects the fact that Washington has evolved over the last decade and we now need to compete for international travel,”said McCarthy, who is also vice president of the Washington Nationals.
Last month, Destination D.C. revealed that the city welcomed 17.9 million visitors last year, breaking the previous record of 17.4 million set in 2000. The uptick in visitor spending translated into $600 million in tax revenue for the District.