DC launches $2.5 million tourism marketing campaign

Destination DC, the tourism marketing arm of the District, has shed light on just how much damage the pandemic has caused to D.C.’s tourism industry, and what they plan to do to bring tourists back this year.

Between March 2020 and March 2021, visitor spending in D.C. was down 68%, or $6.1 billion. The District lost $477 million in tax revenue from visitor spending, down 48%. D.C. hotel revenue was down 84%, or $2.1 billion.

In addition, the District lost $603 million in additional economic impact as a result of 61 canceled citywide conventions and major events in 2020 and 2021.

The pandemic’s effect on tourism also impacted employment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 42,000 of the jobs lost in the District were in leisure and hospitality. That is 59% of all jobs lost to the pandemic last year.

Destination DC is now launching a $2.5 million advertising campaign this spring to jumpstart future travel to the city.

The Recovery Advertising Campaign will target potential leisure travelers in Maryland and Virginia, and 50 million regional consumers within a four-hour drive of the District. It will also include targeted advertising for Americans nationwide showing intent to travel.

“We haven’t advertised our destination in more than a year. Marketing will play a major role in getting hospitality and tourism employees back to work, generating visitor revenue and local taxes and setting D.C. apart from the many other destinations consumers have to choose from,” said Elliot Ferguson, Destination DC president and CEO.

According to Destination DC, 72% of typical travelers — those who have taken a trip in the past two years — are planning on taking a leisure trip this summer but less than half have made reservations, indicating many planning a summer trip have not yet decided where to go.

Destination DC chose D.C.-based advertising agency January Third for its Recovery Advertising Campaign from 25 bids received.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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