Skift Take

The new hotel tax funds will be a big boost for Destination DC's marketing efforts.

Destination DC will spend nearly $20 million on marketing in an upcoming advertising campaign as the city deals with a slow travel recovery.

Called “There’s Only One DC,” the campaign will be global and launch November 1. About $14 million will go toward domestic markets, and $4.5 million will go toward international.

The campaign will support influencer collaborations, international press trips and advertising on social media and television. A major focus will be around the development and variety of neighborhoods and experiences beyond just the National Mall Iconic Monuments.

“What we’re working on especially with the global community is to get them to expand their perspective of Washington,” said Destination DC CEO and President Elliott Ferguson. He said he wants tourists to see more than someone in a suit talking politics, and see more than the White House and the Smithsonian. He said there’s been $9.5 billion dollars of development around the city. 

The money comes from Destination DC’s new funding mechanism that was approved last December. The D.C. City Council approved a measure to increase its hotel taxes to 15.95% from April 2023 through March 2027 to help support the city’s recovery after a rough two years during the pandemic. The new measure has generated over $18 million for Destination DC, and it now has a budget of over $45 million for 2024.

Destination DC hopes the funding injection will help it shore up its struggling international travel segment. “We have room to grow on the international side, which is why this money is so important,” said Ferguson.

Last year, Washington received 1.2 million visitors, which was 60% of its pre-pandemic international volume. In contrast, domestic volume is over 90% percent of its pre-pandemic level.

Despite making up only 7% of all visitors, international visitors are responsible for 27% of spending.

A reason for the international slump has been the absence of China.  “China was our number one visitor market before the pandemic,” said Ferguson. 

Other major U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston have been held back by the loss of Chinese tourists. 

Only since early August has China lifted the restrictions on outbound group tours to China. Air connectivity between China and the U.S. remains below 10% of its pre-pandemic frequency. Visitor visa delays are over 140 days on average, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

Washington has been focusing on other countries like the UK, which is now the city’s number one source market, said Ferguson. New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles have also been looking at other markets to replace the hole left by China.

“We look at Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Oceania,” said Ferguson. “We’re gonna be doing more on each of those markets.”


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Tags: destination markeing, new york city, washington d.c., washington dc

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