This article originally appeared on May 5, 2021, published by Washington Business Journal.
The District’s tourism marketing organization is gearing up to launch a $2.5 million ad campaign aimed at getting word out that D.C. is open for business after it suspended most promotional efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Destination D.C. CEO Elliott Ferguson revealed his nonprofit organization’s plans at its annual travel rally, held Wednesday morning at Audi Field. The District’s tourism industry has a ways to go to get back to pre-pandemic levels, Ferguson said, and international travel isn’t likely to rebound much if at all this year. But there’s pent-up demand for leisure travel, and Destination D.C. plans to gear its messaging toward domestic travelers, especially those within driving distance of Greater Washington.
“Our recovery campaign will focus solely on ways in which we can promote and bring visitors back to Washington,” Ferguson said. “We’ll hope to launch that very soon. For us, it’s not about looking back and where we’ve come from. This is all about looking toward, the future, and how we’ll be able to rebound as so many global cities have been doing that as well.”
What’s up for grabs? Ferguson, citing statistics from Destination Analysts, said 72% of typical travelers plan to take a leisure trip this year, while less than half have made reservations. Destination D.C. is hoping to capture its share of those travelers with undetermined destinations as it seeks to get at least partially back to pre-pandemic travel levels of about 25 million annual visitors spending more than $8 billion and supporting an industry with 80,000 jobs.
In all, visitor spending was down 68%, or $6.3 billion, for the 12 months from March 2020 to March 2021, compared with the same period the previous years, according to a tally released Wednesday by Destination D.C. During a similar time frame, total hotel revenue in the District was down 84%, or $2.1 billion, from the same period in 2019, according to hotel data company STR Inc. That all translated to $477 million in lost tax revenue for the District.