DC business leaders consider ways to boost visitors, dollars to downtown area

D.C. business leaders logged into a video call Thursday to discuss ways to increase the number of people and dollars back into the downtown area.

DowntownDC Business Improvement District President and Executive Director Neil Albert reported figures showing low hotel bookings, fewer restaurant reservations and modest Metro rail ridership.

Economic recovery is lagging, he told the group.

“Pre-pandemic close to 200,000 people came to downtown DC every day,” Albert said during the video conference. “We are at about 39% of daily activity. We have quite a long way to go.”

Another factor that shows a slow recovery: the number of companies bringing workers back into the office. It’s less than 25% in D.C.’s business district.

DowntownDC Board Member Michael McCarthy specializes in real estate. He said businesses need to know where employees want to work.

“In our surveys, the desire to work from home or come into the office is so subject to individual preferences,” said McCarthy. “We need to create environments that are going to lure employees back into the office. They’re going to come back to the office because they would rather not be at home.”

One bright spot is the number of live entertainment and ticketed events slated for several downtown venues.

In the next four months, more than 85 events including Wizards games, concerts and a monster truck show, are booked for downtown D.C., said Monica Dixon, President of External Affairs and Chief Administrative Officer at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns and operates Capital One Arena.

“Three weeks ago, we had our very first large concert. We had the Eagles,” she said. “We’re excited. Hopefully, we can turn the numbers up.”

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