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Destination DC reports near-pre-pandemic visitor levels in annual outlook

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Destination DC reveals a resurgence in tourism with 21.9 million visitors in 2022, marking a significant recovery in both domestic and international tourism metrics.

WASHINGTON, DC – Against the backdrop of a fresh advertising campaign, Destination DC (DDC), the official destination marketing organization for Washington, DC, announced visitation is trending towards a return to pre-pandemic levels. In 2022, the city welcomed 21.9 million visitors, including 1.2 million international visitors. That means domestic visitation has rebounded to 91 percent of pre-pandemic figures, while international visitation has rebounded to 60 percent.

Elliott L. Ferguson, II, president and CEO of DDC, revealed the tourism industry’s continued recovery during the organization’s annual Marketing Outlook Meeting, held at the Warner Theatre. City leaders, stakeholders and hundreds of representatives from local tourism and hospitality businesses were present.

We knew domestic travelers would return quicker than those from international markets, and when domestic travelers are considering where to spend their money, the data tells us DC is a top choice,” said Ferguson. “The data also tells us we must continue enticing international travelers to return. With support from the tourism recovery district legislation, we will continue to win back global travelers with higher spending potential. That matters because visitors directly support local jobs and contribute to the quality of life for residents.”

International visitors typically comprise seven percent of total visitation but account for 27 percent of spending. The 1.2 million international visitors represent a 279 percent year-to-year increase. Top international markets included the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, India, France, Brazil, Mexico (by air), China, South Korea and Australia. DDC plans to increase its representation in select markets in the next fiscal year, starting with Brazil and Mexico.

DDC also announced plans to sustain the positive momentum, nationwide and abroad, by previewing a new advertising campaign: “There’s Only One DC” The branding positions the destination as wholly unique. DC matches other world-class cities in dining, nightlife, arts, culture, sports, theater, outdoor activities and green spaces. But no other destination in the country can compete with DC’s monuments, museums, memorials and free things to do. The campaign will officially launch Nov. 1.

“As we celebrate progress in bringing visitors back to DC, and the jobs and opportunities those visitors create, we are also excited to support Destination DC’s new ‘There’s Only One DC’ campaign,” said DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. “It is true: there is only one place in the world like Washington, DC. Only one place where you can visit the White House during the day and then go to Ben’s Chili Bowl at night. Only one place where you can go to Cedar Hill and then to Sycamore & Oak in one trip. And only one place where you can take in the history of our nation while celebrating and enjoying the culture of the 700,000 Washingtonians who call DC home.”

 “There’s Only One DC” allows us to unapologetically own how fabulous this city is while promoting it,” said Robin A. McClain, DDC’s chief marketing officer. “It’s been extensively tested and researched, and the visuals purposefully blend what DC is known for with hidden gems. Through additional funding and a strategy rooted in research with MMGY Global, our advertising agency of record, we’ll reach more potential travelers than ever.”

The campaign aligns with DDC’s current efforts to market the city for meetings and conventions under its “Connected” platform, which focuses on assets for meeting planners found only in Washington, DC. Examples include strong industries and access to policymakers and experts.

From Michelin-starred restaurants to James Beard Award-winning chefs and world-renowned mixologists, DC’s locally sourced dining scene has incredible momentum. The city is also undergoing a hotel renaissance, with 19 new hotels and more than 3,500 additional rooms in the pipeline. Major events, including DC JazzFest (Aug. 30-Sept. 3), Theatre Week (Sept. 29-Oct. 8), and the World Culture Festival (Sept. 29-Oct. 1) are expected to bring hundreds of thousands of people to the city. Additionally, a landmark museum reopens this fall following years-long renovations: the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Visitation Data*:
  • In 2022, DC welcomed 21.9 million total visitors (20.7 domestic; 1.2 million international).
  • In 2021, DC welcomed 19.1 million total visitors (18.8 million domestic; 320,000 international).
  • Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, DC welcomed 24.8 million total visitors (22.8 million domestic; 2.0 million international).
  • In summary, total visitation is up 14.6 percent year-to-year, but down 11.7 percent compared to 2019.
  • After being one of the slowest-recovering hotel markets in 2022, DC now leads other major markets in year-over-year growth (31.5 percent), according to STR.
Visitation Impact:
  • Visitors spent $8.1 billion in 2022.
    • Up 50.8 percent over 2021 (99 percent of 2019 levels).
  • Taxes generated by visitor spending: record $1.6 billion.
    • Up 58.7 percent over 2021 and surpassing 2019 levels by 1.6 percent.
  • Visitors supported a record 84,111 jobs.
    • Up 45 percent over 2021 and surpassing 2019 levels by 7.5 percent
    • 71,197 jobs are directly related to the industry; the rest are indirect/induced jobs resulting from increased visitation.

*Sources: MMGY Travel Intelligence, S&P Global Market Intelligence, National Travel & Tourism Office, U.S. Department of Commerce.

Vicky Karantzavelou
Co-Founder & Chief Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network | Website

Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales.

She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.