‘Slow climb’ ahead: Visitors to DC down 50% compared to 2019

People tour the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. (Xinhua/Ting Shen via Getty Images)

D.C. is expecting a 50% drop in visitors this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After welcoming nearly 23 million domestic visitors last year, about 11 million are expected this year, according to numbers compiled for Destination DC, a group that supports tourism in the city. The city also welcomed nearly 2 million overseas visitors last year.

“It’s going to be a slow climb out of where we are,” said Destination DC President and CEO Elliott Ferguson of the years to come. “We know that after 9/11, it took us 10 years to get back to the number of visitors that we had in 2000.”

“If we’re fortunate enough to have a vaccine by the end of the year, then the expectation looks better,” he added.


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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.


Ferguson said he believes D.C. remains an appealing destination because it takes compliance with public health standards seriously, and can therefore be seen as a safer place to visit.

“People’s wallets have been challenged,” he said, making free attractions such as any of the open Smithsonian spots more appealing.

Newer destinations, such as Black Lives Matter Plaza, will also bring out visitors, Ferguson said.

He added that his group will be targeting those within driving range to the city, focusing on “the fact that we’ve got 50 million people that live within a four-hour drive of Washington, D.C.”

Mayor Muriel Bowser also addressed Destination DC’s annual marketing outlook meeting.

“We will continue to invest in the industries that put our residents back to work. We will support the local businesses that represent the livelihoods and dreams of Washingtonians,” Bowser said. “Eventually, we will get to the other side of this pandemic, and when we do, we will be ready to remind people that Washington, D.C., is a city that has something for everyone.”

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