Skift Take

Destination DC now has a bigger marketing budget to help lift its tourism numbers.

Destination DC will be aggressively promoting Washington’s unique attractions and experiences in a $20 million campaign set to launch Wednesday.

“We’re pointing out things that are a nice surprise to those consumers and people who may not be as familiar with DC beyond the National Mall, beyond some of the things that they will read on a daily basis,“ said Robin A. McClain, chief marketing officer of Destination DC. “We want to share that surprise with them.”

Called “There’s Only One DC,” the $20 million global marketing campaign centers on Washington’s attractions and experiences like the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world, and Rock Creek Park, the U.S.’ oldest urban national park. Other attractions include The Kennedy Center and Ben’s Chili Bowl.

The Destination DC campaign includes more than 300 digital assets, twenty 15-second commercials and collaborations with social media influencers. DC will also advertise on streaming and have media buys with “major partners where we’ve never been able to do before,” said McClain. 

“There’s Only One DC” has been bolstered by Destination DC’s recent funding boost from a hotel tax increase approved by the city council in December. The tax increase generated over $18 million for Destination DC, giving it a budget of over $45 million for 2024. DC plans to triple its marketing spend in domestic markets, said McClain.

Destination DC has increased its targeting in established international markets. The destination will have more consistent and out-of-home advertising in the UK, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, India and China.

Destination DC will also expand its marketing presence in Mexico, Brazil and Canada. “What this new budget does is allows our international team to have greater representation,” said McClain.

International marketing is more vital than ever for Washington as it deals with a slow recovery. The city is off from its pre-pandemic level on the international side by 40%, said McClain.

DC Needs Those Tourist Dollars

A major reason Destination DC got the funding injection was the city’s need to replace the loss of office commuter spending and foot traffic. “Now more than ever, visitors coming from meetings and for leisure travel will fill out restaurants, for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner,” said Destination DC CEO and President Elliott L. Ferguson. “That’s part of the reason why our elected officials and stakeholders unanimously recognize the need for us to be more aggressive.”

Like other major cities, Washington D.C. needs tourists to replace the spending lost by commuters opting to work at home. About 20% of the city’s offices were vacant in the third quarter of this year, according to Cushman & Wakefield.

President Joe Biden’s recent pushes have been ineffectual at getting the federal government — the Washington’s largest employer — to have more of its workers back in the office. 

“We have 140,000 I think federal workers just in the D.C. area,” said U.S. Travel Association CEO and President Geoff Freeman at Skift Global Forum. “For what it’s worth, the Biden administration has encouraged it and nothing’s changing.” 


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Tags: destination markeing, government, tourism, washington d.c., washington dc

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