Fewer Travelers Spent More Cash in D.C. in '06

Monday, August 27, 2007

Fewer travelers visited Washington last year when compared with 2005, but those who did spent more money, according to a study released last week by the Washington, D.C., Convention and Tourism Corp.

The number of visitors fell slightly, to 15.1 million in 2006 from 15.3 million, according to the study, which was conducted by Strategic Marketing and Research for the corporation.

The study attributed the decline to a slowdown in business travel, which slipped to 5.8 million visitors in 2006 from 7 million in 2005. The number of leisure travelers, however, jumped to 8.1 million from 7.1 million.

Visitor spending grew 5 percent, to $5.24 billion in 2006, driven by higher hotel-occupancy rates and increased expenditures on transportation and entertainment. The spending generated $564 million in tax revenue for the District, according to the study.

"Exceeding the $5 billion mark in visitor spending for the second year in a row just solidifies the fact that travel and tourism is a powerhouse industry for this city," William A. Hanbury, the corporation's chief executive, said in a statement.

Overall domestic tourism is expected to remain stagnant this year and next, according to a report released last week by Global Insight, an economic forecasting company.

Last year, the corporation invested $1 million in a summer-long campaign to promote the reopening of the National Portrait Gallery and other attractions throughout the District.

Along with traditional newspaper and Metro advertisements, the organization conducted a guerrilla marketing campaign in which it attached removable stickers to dollar bills circulated in Washington and New York. The stickers pointed to George Washington's portrait on the bills with the words, "he looks better in color," a reference to the famous Gilbert Stuart painting on display at the National Portrait Gallery.

-- Alejandro Lazo

© 2007 The Washington Post Company