The District of Columbia could generate thousands of new jobs and raise millions of dollars in new tax revenues by revamping its poorly organized tourism programs and launching an advertising campaign to attract more tourists, according to a recently completed study commissioned by the city.
Among the findings of the 130-page, $60,000 study were:
For every dollar the city spends, it could expect $1.49 in generated taxes.
Tourists here get confused too easily and a "clearing house" should be set up to tell them what's going on at any given time.
A publicly run tourism association is needed to act as an "umbrella" organizaion for city agencies and private business.
A "theme of the month" campaign would help hotels, travel agencies and other businesses coordinate their own advertising.
The report, due to be released publicly in several weeks, makes a total of 24 recommendations on how the city can get a larger slice of the tourism market, according to Tom Lloyd, of Grant and Associates, who conducted the study.
Although the city spends about $300,000 a year with the private D.C. Convention and Visitors Association to help attract business groups here, the city is doing little to lure individual tourists and non-business groups, the study said.
It suggested the District could boost its current promotion budget to as much as $2 million to help pay for the study's recommendations and generate more tourism. Last year the city had 11 million domestic visitors and 2 million foreign visitors.
The higher promotion budget would still be relatively small compared to other major international cities, Lloyd said. "The city is not sophisticated enough yet to handle large sums of money [for tourism]. It needs to get its sea legs first. If you've never promoted before, why spend $50 million?" he said.
Lloyd said the city should promote the hundreds of federal tourist attractions here that don't cost the city any money to maintain. "The feds pay for a lot of the attractions," he said.
"The District has more attractions than any other city in the country," said Lloyd. "We are already getting a lot of traffic, but the city has suffered from a lack of coordination. We have to get everybody playing the same tune at the same time."
Ann R. Kinney, executive assistant for the D.C. Office of Business and Economic Development, agrees, "It is no secret that the city has been disorganized in this area.We've been working on the problem for two years. The market analysis and economic impact study is one of the steps we have taken to determine what is needed."
Despite the lack of coordinated advertising in the Nation's Capital, tourism is the second largest industry here behind the federal governmen, officials said. Tourism accounted for about 70,800 jobs in the city last year, Lloyd said.
According to the study, tourism earned D.C. businesses $2.4 billion last year and the District's treasury collected $14 million in net revenues from taxes on tourism-related business. "There has been a tendency in the District to say, why spend money if we are already doing okay?" Lloyd said.
But the potential for more business has gotten the interest of the financially troubled city. The study was commissioned by a tourism committee formed four months ago by Mayor Marion Barry.
Lloyd said he also developed a questionnaire to find out what travelers think of the District and found that crime is not a factor in deciding whether to visit here. Europeans questioned gave Washington high marks for its beauty.
The study said the bulk of domestic advertising campaigns should be targeted at New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boson, cities whose residents are most likely to visit Washington.
Lloyd said advertising campaigns in foreign countries should concentrate on the United Kingdom, Canada and West German.
"The prospect of a booming tourism business is much better than anybody thought it was before I got into this," said Lloyd. "The possibilities are unlimited, the sky is the limit." CAPTION: Picture, Despite Washington's booming tourist trade, still more jobs and greater income for the city can be realized, according to a new $60,000 consultant's study. By Fred Sweets -- The Washington Post