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D.C. tourism rakes in $6 billion in 2011

Tuesday - 5/8/2012, 3:11pm  ET

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Characters dressed like presidents Thomas Jefferson and Lincoln help promote tourism in D.C. (WTOP/Hank Silverberg)

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - If you live or work in D.C., thank tourists. They are helping to keep the city vibrant.

Destination DC, which works to bring visitors to the region, says tourism now supports 76,000 jobs in the District, trailing only the federal government as the major employer.

Travelers brought in $6 billion last year, providing more than half the sales tax revenue collected, says Elliot Ferguson, CEO of Destination DC.

That works out to $2,400 in lower taxes for every taxpayer in the city.

"This is the industry where the opportunity lies in future growth in employment," he says.

The completion of the Silver Line to Dulles International Airport should also help attract tourists especially from overseas.

"The most important thing for Washington is that the international tourist market continues to grow by leaps and bounds, Ferguson says.

The city suffered a setback in tourism after the Sept. 11 attacks, but it has now bounced back. There was a 7 percent hike in tourism revenue in Washington in 2011.

Ferguson says they could get a boost especially among foreign visitors once the Dulles Rail project is complete. Currently, Washington is the only major world capital without a direct subway link between an international airport and downtown.

Not all visitors are here just to see the sites. The are 14 citywide conferences and conventions already planned in D.C. for 2013.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)