District set tourism record in 2013, with 17.4 million American visitors, a 3.1% increase


The number of domestic visitors grew to a record 17.4 million last year. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

A record 17.4 million Americans visited the nation’s capital last year, a 3.1 percent increase from the year before, D.C. officials announced Tuesday.

Tourism was boosted by President Obama’s second inauguration last year and by growth in the local restaurant and nightlife scene. The District also hosted 16 citywide conventions, down from 17 in 2012.

The number of international visitors, which is compiled by the Commerce Department, has not been released. But according to the economic research firm IHS, total tourism spending in Washington accounted for $6.7 billion in local revenue, an increase of nearly 8 percent over 2012.

“The numbers are absolutely staggering,” Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) said Tuesday morning at a rally near the new City Center development.

Visitor spending helped support nearly 76,000 jobs in the District, Gray added.

Last year was the third year in a row that visitor spending exceeded $6 billion, according to Destination D.C., the District’s marketing arm. Retail spending by visitors rose about 9 percent last year; spending on food and beverages rose about 10 percent.

“The travel and tourism industry is a major revenue engine for the District,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said in a statement.

This year, the District expects to host 17 citywide conventions, including the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in July (which is expected to bring in 15,000 attendees) and the Jehovah’s Witness International Convention in August (60,000 attendees).

abha.bhattarai@washpost.com

Capital Business is The Post’s weekly publication focusing on the region’s business community. For more Washington business news, go to www.capbiz.biz.

Abha Bhattarai covers local banking, retail and hospitality for The Washington Post’s Capital Business section. She has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.
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