Tourism skid expected in DC due to coronavirus

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus is putting a pinch on travel, and D.C.’s tourism industry is expecting to feel it.

Spring is a busy time for tourists to flock to the nation’s capital, and, while visitors from other states make up the majority of D.C. tourists, the District is preparing for a decline in the number of international visitors, especially from China.

“As an industry we anticipate there being a loss,” said Elliot Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC, the private, nonprofit corporation that manages and markets the city as a travel, tourist and convention destination.

“We know for a fact that the largest market for Washington, D.C., the market that stays longer and spends more, would be the Chinese, and, unfortunately, they’re not traveling right now,” he said.

No upcoming conventions have been canceled, Ferguson said, but there have been hotel room cancellations from people who planned to travel from China and other nations where travel has been reduced because of the virus outbreak.

As an example, Ferguson cited the International Association for Dental Research convention, set for March 18: “We know that 700 of their attendees are from China. We know that those individuals will not be traveling.”

D.C.’s tourism industry has faced challenges in the past from major incidents that slowed visits to the area, including the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack and the anthrax attacks a few months later.

Tourism officials say it’s reasonable to assume the city will host fewer visitors from nations currently restricting travel, but the situation is being monitored and efforts could be made to draw visitors from other places.

“We’re optimistic that we’ll weather the storm,” Ferguson said.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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