The economy may be tough, but it hasn’t crippled the second-largest industry in the D.C. area: tourism. (And no, "tourism" doesn't only mean those FBI T-shirts sold out of carts along the National Mall).
And spring has brought with it some definite signs of recovery.
A new study by Destination D.C. shows the city is still a popular destination. "Even with the challenges in the economy, meetings and tourism continue to be an incredibly powerful revenue generator for the District," said Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of the tourism group.
In fact, the study says tourism has generated more than $5 billion for the fourth year in a row. Not only that, hotel occupancy rates have shown impressive gains in the past six weeks. The main reason? All those big meetings and conventions. Occupancy rates climbed 5.6 percent in the past four weeks, and the average daily rate jumped 14.4 percent over last year.
Last year was a bit of a rough year, though. The District welcomed 14.8 million domestic visitors in 2009, down from 15.2 million in 2008. And the visitors spent seven percent less on lodging, food, transportation, shopping and entertainment. However, even with those modest declines, D.C. boasted one of the strongest hotel markets in the country last year.
Now, as the weather warms up, the folks at Destination D.C. think things are looking up. "We continue to see encouraging signs based on the spring’s convention attendance... and we look forward to a strong lineup of meetings and major corporate business this summer and fall," said Gregory O’Dell, president and CEO of the Washington Convention and Sports Authority.
After all, this is the nation's capital, and it'll always be a popular place to visit. Plus, all the tourists are good for the locals. Each D.C. household gets an average of $2,300 in tax savings, thanks to revenues collected from travel and tourism expenditures. Not only that, the tourism industry supports more than 66,000 jobs, much-needed jobs in this economy.
Kind of makes you see those awful FBI T-shirts with a little bit of appreciation, huh?