- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 5, 2009


There’s really good news, good news and not-so-good news on the D.C. tourism front.

The really good news is that spending by travelers to Washington hit $5.6 billion in 2008, including $618 billion in tax revenue, according to a new report.

The good news is that despite the economic downturn, the nation’s capital welcomed 16.6 million visitors in 2008 compared with 16.2 million in 2007. A new report by Destination D.C. also found that both domestic and international tourist numbers are up. Domestic travel rose 2 percent to 15.2 million, and international travel reflected double-digit growth for the second straight year - rising 22 percent in 2008, to 1.4 million.

While visitors cut their shopping and entertainment expenses, they spent more on dining and transportation, fueling a slight increase in overall visitor spending (from $5.57 billion in 2007 to $5.64 billion in 2008). Hotel and lodging expenditures remained flat, the report says.

“Even with challenges in the economy, the meetings and tourism industry brought more than five and a half billion dollars to D.C. for the second year in a row,” said Elliott Ferguson, president and chief executive of Destination D.C., the city’s official convention and tourism corporation. “The tax dollars that tourism generates are critical to the health of our city and the quality of life of D.C. residents, particularly with the tough budget year ahead of us.”

Cost-conscious travelers boosted attendance at Smithsonian museums, which was up 4 percent over 2007, and at National Park Service sites, which saw a 6 percent increase.

Recent visitor Kathleen Ryan of New York, a breast cancer survivor and retired police officer, says that for years she has seen Washington’s famous monuments from afar and was taken aback during her two-day stay.

“For two days last month, Washington, D.C., was my town - a stop along our East Coast drive from Long Island to Florida. Two days provided only a glimpse into the magnificent history and sights our nation’s capital has to offer,” she says on her blog at womenofmystery.net.

“A two-day ticket for a hop-on/hop-off bus provided an overview, including the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, Capitol Hill and the White House, among many other historical sites.

“We visited Arlington Cemetery. … We witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns, which is quite an emotional experience. We also visited the eternal flame at JFK’s grave,” Ms. Ryan writes.

“All my life I have seen these monuments - in books, movies, magazines, television and the internet, but I always wanted to visit them in person. Nothing could have prepared me, though, for my reaction to the Lincoln Memorial. We visited at night, so that we could take photos of the Washington Monument when the moon creates a shimmering reflection in the reflection pool. There were dozens of visitors flocking to the Lincoln Memorial.

“When I climbed those enormous marble steps where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech and Marian Anderson sang on Easter Sunday 1939, as I drew closer to the exquisite sculpture, I was overcome with tears. The sheer magnitude and beauty of the statue, combined with the history this memorial represents, overwhelmed me.”

Now, the not-so-good news. While 2009 attendance to such National Park sites as the Lincoln Memorial and museums operated by the Smithsonian Institution are up, 9 percent and 21 percent respectively, 2010-12 visitation is expected to be relatively flat.



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