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Destination DC estimated to fall by more than 50 percent in 2020

Destination DC (DDC) has announced that it welcomed 24.6 million total visitors including 22.8 million domestic visitors and 1.8 million overseas visitors. According to 2019 data from IHS Markit, visitation supported 78,266 jobs across all sectors in Washington, DC. Tourism also generated US$8.2 billion in visitor spending and $896 million in local tax revenue to the District. 

Addressing approximately 1,000 attendees virtually at the organization’s annual Marketing Outlook Meeting, Elliott L. Ferguson, II, President and CEO of DDC, shared that data from Tourism Economics projects approximately 11 million domestic visitors, down 53 per cent, will travel to the city in 2020. However, if a vaccine is available early next year, and if the recession does not deepen in a significant way, that estimate could rise to 20 million by 2022.By comparison, it took the travel industry 10 years to recover following 9/11.

“We set the bar high with 10 consecutive years of growth before the pandemic changed things for us, and as we can expect, this year won’t look good,” said Ferguson. “The key for us will be securing funds to market our destination when the time is right, adapting our sales efforts virtually and focusing on the safety measures the city and industry have adopted to keep visitor safety in mind.”

Mayor Muriel Bowser spoke about the importance of tourism to the local economy. “We know that Washingtonians are resilient, and so is our culture and our community. Together, we will bring our tourism and hospitality industries back and better than before,” said Mayor Bowser. “As we continue through our pandemic response and recovery, we remain focused on supporting the local businesses that represent the livelihoods and dreams of Washingtonians. And with Destination DC’s help, and when the time is right, we are ready to remind everyone that DC is still a city with something for everyone – whether you’re here to live, work or play.”

COVID-19 has greatly impacted tourism spending. According to Tourism Economics, visitor spending was down 83 percent, or US$5.6 billion, for March 8-Aug. 22, 2020 compared to 2019. When it comes to large-scale events and groups booked by DDC, there have been 42 cancellations to date, resulting in a US$422 million total loss, not including in-hotel meetings and leisure groups. Thirty-five major events would have taken place in 2020, resulting in a loss of $369 million, and seven events in2021, valued at US$53 million. However, during the pandemic, DDC has booked five citywide meetings, including Delta Sigma Theta sorority’s57th national convention in 2025 with an estimated economic impact of $14.5 million. The team is positioning DC to attract combination virtual and in-person events in addition to be a connected city that provides access to local innovators and global leaders. 

In 2019, DC’s top 10 overseas markets, in order of visitation, are China, UK, India, Germany, South Korea, France, Australia, Italy, Brazil and Spain.

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