Destination DC reports this is the sixth-consecutive record year for domestic tourism in the nation’s capital. The tourism industry accounts for more than 74,000 jobs in the city, according to the tourism bureau.
About 90 percent of the city’s visitors come from within the United States, but international visitors are an attractive target for tourism officials because they typically stay longer. (There were 19.3 million domestic tourists in 2015, but the $7.1 billion spending figure accounts for international and domestic tourists.)
Over the past few years, Destination DC has been pushing a DC Cool ad campaign in publications like the New Yorker and Boston Magazine to show that the nation’s capital is more than just a destination to see monuments, museums and the president’s house. The advertisements highlight D.C’s burgeoning food, nightlife and shopping scenes.
And something seems to be reaching would-be tourists. Retail sector spending among tourists grew by 4.7 percent in 2015, spending on food and beverages was up 5.1 percent and entertainment spending increased by 2.6 percent, according to Destination DC. A number of new hotels have opened in the District in recent years, and spending on accommodations jumped by 5.3 percent.
“Visitor spending was up $300 million over the previous year,” Elliott Ferguson, the chief executive of Destination DC, said in a news release. “These coveted numbers represent the impact of tourism investment in the nation’s capital. The return on investment study that we commissioned from Destination Analysts determined last year’s spring and summer advertising shows that our city received $2.65 in taxes for every $1 we spent.”
In 2016, D.C. is hosting 15 city-wide conventions, bringing in an estimated total economic impact of $277.9 million.
Tourism in Washington dipped after 9/11, then again during the recession from 2007 to 2009. The Associated Press reports that in 2011, the city broke the domestic visitation record from 2000.