Has DC tourism rebounded since the pandemic?

Current station-wide tourism campaign at Philadelphia’s 30th Street station (Courtesy Destination DC)

Destination DC has released 2022 tourism numbers that show 20.7 million domestic tourists visited the city last year, which is 91% of pre-pandemic numbers in 2019. Those tourists also spent $8.1 billion last year, a more than 50% jump over 2021 domestic tourist spending and almost matching what tourists spent in D.C. in 2019.

Destination DC estimates those tourists supported a record 84,000 D.C. jobs in 2022.

All those tourist dollars generate taxes, and in 2022, the city estimates taxes generated by visitor spending reached a record $1.6 billion, almost 2% more than domestic tourist spending in 2019.

Destination DC’s current $5 million marketing program for spring and summer includes broadcast, print and online advertising concentrating on D.C.’s top domestic markets, including New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, a D.C. ad campaign has taken over all signage in Philadelphia’s 30th Street Train Station during May.

International markets targeted for visitors include the UK, India, Australia and China, and others showing growth, including Canada, Mexico and Brazil.

International tourism has been slower to recover. Though those numbers won’t be released until later this year, the number of international visitors to D.C. last year is estimated to have been 1.1 million to 1.3 million, about 71% of pre-pandemic 2019.

International tourists are more lucrative. While typically accounting for about 7% of all visitors, they account for 27% of all visitor spending.

D.C. has several large conventions and conferences on the books, including 16 citywide conventions, which usually breaks down to at least 2,500 hotel room nights booked per convention. Those will generate a total of 322,000 total room nights this year, and $245 million in economic impact.

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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