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D.C. sets tourism record with 20 million visitors

The Marriott Marquis, next to the Convention Center, opened its doors on Thursday, May 1, 2014. (Photo by Jeffrey MacMillan)
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D.C. set an all-time record with 20.2 million visitors in 2014, thanks in large part to a 16 percent boost in international visitors over the previous year.

About 90 percent of the city’s visitors still come from within the United States, but international visitors are an attractive target for tourism officials because they typically stay longer.

While the 1.9 million visitors from abroad represent only 9 percent of the total, they put up 27 percent of the total spending, according to Destination DC, the District’s marketing arm. (The numbers do not include visitors or spending in the Maryland or Virginia suburbs.)

For all of 2014, visitors spent $6.8 billion in D.C., a 1.9 percent bump from the previous year.

The countries sending the most visitors to D.C. were China, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, India, South Korea, Brazil, Japan and Italy.

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) joined hundreds of hotel and marketing officials at the Marriott Marquis convention center hotel Monday for Destination DC’s annual meeting, as the group reiterated its commitment to its “D.C. Cool” marketing campaign. The D.C. government under Bowser earmarked an additional $3 million for the group this year.

With the opening last year of the new Marriott Marquis, D.C. has been focused on attracting more events and groups in need of large hotel room buys.

There are 15 citywide events and 13 smaller conventions on the books for this year and next. There are also a number of milestone events and openings approaching, including the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a centennial celebration of the National Park Service and the ACC men’s basketball championship, which is set to come to the Verizon Center in 2016.

D.C. is also set to debut two new luxury hotels in coming months. A redeveloped Watergate Hotel is slated to open later this year and a luxury hotel by Donald and Ivanka Trump is scheduled to open in the Old Post Office Pavilion early next year.

[You may not take Donald Trump’s candidacy seriously but take another look at his real estate business]

Elliott L. Ferguson. president and chief executive of Destination DC, said the city’s growth and evolution has contributed to tourism growth.

“The city is being revitalized with $9.2 billion in physical developments, a robust calendar of conventions and cultural and sporting events,” Ferguson said. “These developments put people to work while giving visitors a rich experience and new reasons to return.”

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz