- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The District’s tourism agency has redefined how it measures tourist traffic, counting visitors to the city instead of the metropolitan area, in an attempt to demonstrate the industry’s importance to the District’s budget.

“We have struggled with resources and trying to convince the District of Columbia government that, in fact, we need more resources to promote Washington, D.C.,” said William A. Hanbury, president and chief executive officer of the Washington, DC Convention & Tourism Corp. (WCTC). “So we want to make sure we’re showing the District government that there’s this very strong connection between what you invest and what you get out of the other end of the pipeline.”

Mr. Hanbury added that the switch comes in anticipation of a new face in the mayor’s office.

“Mayor [Anthony A.] Williams has been a terrific partner of the hospitality industry, and our resources and our support have increased significantly,” he said. “We need to continue to stay on that trendline.”

The WCTC’s annual budget is $12 million, less than other major tourism destinations such as Las Vegas.

“If we want to compete with New York, Philadelphia, Orlando, Las Vegas — because we are competing with them, though we have a very different product than Las Vegas — but even London, Paris and Rome, we must invest more money to attract those people,” Mr. Hanbury said.

According to the new study, tourism to the District rose nearly 3 percent to 15.4 million visitors last year. Visitors spent $5 billion during their trips here, a 4.6 percent increase from 2004.

Tourism generated $542 million in District tax revenue — enough to pay for the police, parks and recreation, and motor vehicle department budgets combined, Mr. Hanbury said.

Last year, visitors spent $1.8 billion on lodging, $1.3 billion on food and beverage, $833 million on entertainment, $606 million on retail and $489 million on transportation, the WCTC said, citing the study completed by Global Insight Inc., an economic analysis company in Waltham, Mass.

About 90 percent of the tax revenue generated by the tourism industry is put into the city’s general fund.

The District attracts a different type of traveler than other U.S. tourist destinations. About 60 percent of District visitors come from households reporting incomes of more than $750,000 per year, compared with 38 percent of all American travelers. Two-thirds of District visitors are college graduates, compared with 36 percent of all travelers. District travelers are also slightly more likely to be over 35 and less likely to be married or have children.

Leisure travelers in hotels spent an average of $1,606 during their stay, and business travelers in hotels spent about $1,310. The average stay was 3.2 days — consistent with 2004.

The number of leisure travelers remained flat in 2005, but the number of business travelers rose 4 percent, growth the WCTC contributed to a record year of meetings and conventions.

While the number of international travelers rose only slightly, from 1.2 million to 1.3 million, the amount of money they spent here rose 15 percent.

The WCTC expects 15.8 million tourists to visit the District.

this year, an increase of 3 percent.



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