Destination DC, the official marketing organization for the district, announced today the bleak reality of tourism’s decline in the nation’s capital during the pandemic. In a virtual meeting, Destination DC head Elliott L. Ferguson said that they project about 11 million domestic visitors total for the year, a steep drop down 53 percent from last year. It’s the first time in the past decade that DC has seen a downturn in visitation.
A a major source of economic growth in the city, the tourism industry has suffered severely from Covid-19: This year’s tourist spending numbers show a loss of $5.6 billion between March and August, compared to the same time frame in 2019. Due to event cancellations in 2020, Destination DC says it has seen $442 million in losses from the events it books alone. Ferguson says DC could potentially rebound in the next two years if a vaccine becomes available in early 2021. Yet the organization also notes: “By comparison, it took the travel industry 10 years to recover following 9/11.”
Despite the dire statistics, Ferguson and mayor Bowser expressed optimism for the future, citing potential attractions that might increase tourism in coming years such as Black Lives Matter Plaza, upcoming memorials dedicated to Dwight Eisenhower, WWI, and Native American veterans, and the new baby panda at the National Zoo. January 2021 will of course include a presidential inauguration. Next year also marks major anniversaries for DC institutions, including the Smithsonian’s 175th and the Kennedy Center’s 50th.